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U.S. Closes Probe, Avery Says

California and the West

The label company apparently is still the target of price-fixing inquiries overseas.

October 20, 2006|Martin Zimmerman | Times Staff Writer

Avery Dennison Corp. said it was notified by the Department of Justice on Thursday that the government had closed its investigation into competitive practices in the labeling industry.

Pasadena-based Avery said it was told that "no further action" would be taken in the case. Company executives declined to comment further.

The Justice Department couldn't be reached for comment late Thursday.

Avery first revealed in April 2003 that it was part of an investigation into the market for pressure-sensitive label stock, which is used on products as varied as shampoo bottles and office supplies.

Avery and Bemis Co., a Minneapolis-based competitor, were subpoenaed by the government later that year.

At the time, the Justice Department was suing to block the $420-million purchase of Bemis' MACtac unit by Raflatac Inc., a subsidiary of Finnish paper products maker UPM-Kymmene Corp.

The government argued that the deal would hinder competition in the label stock industry.

Avery, which commands about half of the labeling market, apparently is still under investigation by regulators in Europe and Australia regarding possible price fixing and manipulation.

Two years ago, Avery said an internal investigation had uncovered "instances of improper conduct" by employees in its European operations and said the infractions could result in heavy fines by regulators.

The company didn't describe the nature of the wrongdoing.

Avery launched the internal probe after the European Commission -- the European Union's antitrust authority -- began to look into the company's actions as part of a broader probe of the labeling market.

Avery's announcement came after the close of trading Thursday. Its shares, which rose 40 cents to $62.69 during the day, were little changed in after-hours trading.

martin.zimmerman@latimes.com

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