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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 Vitamin Giants to Pay Record Price-Fixing Fines

WASHINGTON -- European pharmaceutical and chemical giants Roche Holding and BASF AG agreed to pay record U.S. fines totalling $725 million, and a former Roche official will serve a jail term for fixing world vitamin prices.

Attorney General Janet Reno said Switzerland's Roche will pay $500 million and Germany's BASF will pay $225 million for participating in a worldwide conspiracy to set prices.

Dr. Kuno Sommer, former director of worldwide marketing for Hoffmann-La Roche vitamins and fine chemicals, agreed to serve a four-month prison sentence and pay a $100,000 fine.

"These prosecutions demonstrate that we will not allow international cartels to prey on American consumers in our globalized economy," Reno told a news conference. The cases were filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas.

Sommer pleaded guilty to participating in the cartel and then lying to Justice Department investigators about it in 1997.

"Foreign borders will not serve as a sanctuary from prosecution for individuals who conspire to steal from U.S. businesses and customers," said Justice Department antitrust division chief Joel Klein.

France's Rhone-Poulenc SA cooperated with the government in its investigation and will face no criminal charges, the Justice Department said.

The criminal case said that Roche, BASF and Sommer - along with other, unidentified co-conspirators - conspired to fix the prices on vitamins A, B2, B5, C, E, beta-carotene and "vitamin premixes."

In Brussels, a European Commission source said the commission was investigating the firms but a final decision was a long way off.