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Odfjell Execs Sentenced in Price Fixing

September 30, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Odfjell, the world's biggest operator of deep-sea chemical tankers, said two top executives would go to prison in the U.S. and the company would pay a $42.5-million fine after pleading guilty to price fixing.

Bergen, Norway-based Odfjell's chief executive, Bjoern Sjaastad, will serve four months in prison under an agreement with U.S. prosecutors, the Justice Department said. Erik Nilsen, a vice president, will serve three months.

Odfjell pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia to one count of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by fixing prices on some freight contracts from 1998 to 2002.

It will pay the fine for unit Odfjell Seachem over five years, in annual installments of $8.5 million, and take a related third-quarter charge.

Odfjell said in a statement that its financial position "remains sound."

Sjaastad will pay a fine of $250,000 and Nilsen will pay $25,000, the company said.

The price-fixing and bid-rigging allegations have brought investigations on both sides of the Atlantic and at least eight antitrust lawsuits this year in U.S. federal courts.

European Commission investigators raided the offices of Odfjell and its London-based competitor Stolt-Nielsen in February, as U.S. authorities started investigating Odfjell's Houston-based unit. Jo Tankers, a smaller shipping company, also was targeted.

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