TotalFinaElf Face Price Fixing Probe

Akzo Nobel, TotalFinaElf and Clariant said they face a European Union antitrust investigation and possible fines for fixing chemical prices in the mid 1990s.

“We said we made some mistakes in the past and we corrected these mistakes so they're not tolerated in the company any more, not now or in the future,” said John de Munnik, a spokesman for Akzo Nobel. The largest Dutch drugmaker has set aside 111 million euros ($104 million) for possible antitrust fines, he said.

The European Commission is cracking down on cartels and can fine companies as much as ten percent of their worldwide sales if they are found guilty of breaching antitrust rules. In practice, fines are generally much lower.

The commission began its investigation in March 2000. The probe, which follows the jailing in the US of an executive from Akzo and another from TotalFinaElf and a civil action brought by customers, focuses on monochloroacetic acid, which is used in detergents, cosmetics and herbicides, Dow Jones Newswires reported yesterday.

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