The criminal trial of three executives accused of fixing prices for water storage tanks has been taking place this week in London. The three executives, each one from a different company alleged to have participated in the cartel, face charges of: "dishonestly agreeing with others to divide customers, fix prices and rig bids between 2004 and 2012 in respect of the supply in the UK of galvanized steel tanks for water storage."
One of the executives, Peter Nigel Snee, who was a director of Franklin Hodge Industries at the time of the alleged cartel, has pleaded guilty. The two other executives, Clive Dean, who was a director of Kondea Water Supplies and Nicholas Stringer, who was a director of Galglass, have pleaded not guilty.
One of the sales managers from Franklin Hodge Industries called to give evidence at the trial, stated that he knew that Mr Snee was meeting other manufacturers to discuss prices and that he knew it was against the law. When the company was raided by the UK antitrust authorities in November 2012, the sales manager noted that he had panicked and torn pages evidencing meetings between the manufacturers from company diaries.
At the time at which the three were charged, dishonesty was required to be proved in order to be found guilty of the cartel offence. This means that the dishonesty requirement will apply in this trial. The law has since changed and there is no longer a requirement for proof of dishonesty. Therefore, price fixing, bid rigging, and market sharing are essentially strict liability criminal offences.
Those found guilty of the cartel offence can face up to 5 years in jail, an unlimited fine and disqualification from being a director for up to 15 years.
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