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Chiquita: Workers Violated EU Rules

The company tells authorities of possible price fixing. Fruit distributors are raided.

June 04, 2005|From Reuters

Chiquita Brands International Inc. said Friday that some employees shared pricing and volume information with European competitors over many years, and that it was cooperating with an investigation of fruit distributors, including Westlake Village-based Dole Food Co.

European Union antitrust authorities raided banana and pineapple distributors suspected of fixing prices in Europe after Chiquita blew the whistle, the European Commission and companies said Friday.

Chiquita said it recently discovered that some employees might have also engaged in other conduct in violation of European competition laws and its own policies. The company said it ended such conduct and told the European Commission of these matters.

Chiquita said it also found that employees in an unnamed Latin American country shared information with competitors about the volume of fruit shipped to North America.

The commission identified none of the companies raided in Germany, Belgium, Britain and Ireland, but Chiquita, Ireland's Fyffes and Dole Food Co. acknowledged that they were raided. Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and Ecuador's Noboa, two other players in the industry, were not available for comment.

"Yes, we received a visit yesterday in Hamburg ... but there is certainly no cartel," said William Feeney, president of Dole Europe in Paris.

Chiquita said that the appropriate regulatory authorities in the United States and Canada were notified and that those authorities had not initiated any investigation.

Shares of Cincinnati-based Chiquita rose 6 cents to $29.81.

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