Thursday, June 05, 2003

Antitrust News: The Vitamin Wars Continue

From the Justice Department's Antitrust Division:
A federal grand jury in Dallas today indicted the former president of DuCoa, L.P., based in Highland, Illinois, with participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids and allocate customers in the choline chloride industry, the Department of Justice announced.

Choline chloride, commonly known as vitamin B4, which is sold by manufacturers and resellers to customers in the animal nutrition industry, is administered to animals to ensure their proper growth and development.

According to the indictment filed today in U. S. District Court in Dallas, Daniel T. Rose of Highland, Illinois, agreed with his co-conspirators to suppress and eliminate competition in the choline chloride market in the United States from approximately August 1997 through September 29, 1998.

"This is the eighth prosecution involving choline chloride and the 30th case arising from the long running vitamins investigation being conducted by the Division's Dallas Field Office," said R. Hewitt Pate, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division.

Rose is charged with participating in meetings and conversations with his co-conspirators to discuss the prices and volume of choline chloride, agreeing to set choline chloride prices, agreeing to allocate choline chloride customers and rigging bids for contracts to supply choline chloride.

Rose is charged with violating Section One of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of $350,000. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
By coincidence, Attorney General John Ashcroft testified before the House Judiciary Committee today, where he asked for additional powers to fight terrorist organizations. For example, he wants the ability to hold terrorist suspects indefinitely, something which is unlikely to win Ashcroft any new friends in the civil liberties crowd. And given the DOJ's propensity to squander taxpayer funds on things like stopping "price fixing" in the vitamin industry and punishing Martha Stewart for having a conversation with her stockbroker, it's becoming more apparent that Ashcroft's opponents have taken the ethical and moral high ground. The Justice Department simply has no core principles when it comes to individual rights and civil liberties. This is not a partisan problem—the Democrats were just as unprincipled when they ran the DOJ under Janet Reno. And indeed, it's not even completely the DOJ's fault. Congress keeps expanding the range of federal "crimes" to combat every minor interest group complaint. The result is a DOJ that's faced with too many laws to enforce and not enough resources. The result is selective prosecution of easy (or popular) targets, which is hardly anyone's idea of equal justice under law.

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