One example of price-fixing is the antitrust suit the U.S. Department of Justice instituted against Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). The lawsuit had to do with ADM engaging in price-fixing of citric acid and lysine with its other international competitors.

For example, in 1992 when lysine was under $0.80 per pound, the ADM President of the Corn Processing Division proposed that ADM make an agreement with its competition to raise the price of lysine to $0.80 per pound, then to $1.05 per pound, and eventually to $1.20 per pound.

How Was ADM Caught by the Justice Department?

The President of the ADM Bioproducts Division, Mark Whitacre, made false allegations that problems with ADM’s new lysine plant was due to industrial sabotage initiated by a Japanese competitor’s extortion threats. The FBI then came into the picture to investigate these allegations.

Whitacre admitted to the FBI that he had made false allegations and agreed to work with the FBI to uncover ADM’s price-fixing schemes. For the next several years Whitacre made recordings of meetings between ADM and their competitor in which they plotted their price-fixing operations. This evidence helped FBI in their investigation and eventually resulted in the Department of Justice filing a criminal suit against ADM in federal court.

What Was the End Result of the Action by the Justice Department?

In the end, ADM plead guilty to fixing international prices for lysine and citric acid. The penalty was that ADM had to pay a $100 million fine, and three of its top executives ended up going to prison.

Unfortunately Whitacre was one of those who ended up in prison, however the reasons for doing so was that he had embezzled company money and had hid this fact from the FBI until the investigation was well under way.

What Should I Do if I Know My Employer is Engaging in Unfair Competition Like Price-Fixing?

Before taking any action you may want to consult an business attorney. While the right thing to do is to report your company to the Department of Justice, you should still take precautions to protect your own interests by having someone represent you in the process. Your attorney can inform you of your rights including those whistleblower laws that will protect you. Your attorney can also guide you through the process and help you make decisions in such a way that you are able to act ethically but still look out for your own interests and make sure you do not endanger yourself legally.