Guilty Plea in Antitrust Conspiracy Involving Water Treatment Chemical

Two individuals and one company have now pleaded guilty to charges arising out of a federal investigation of collusion in the liquid aluminum sulfate industry, according to DOJ.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a former executive pleaded guilty Jan. 3 in the District of New Jersey for his role in a conspiracy to eliminate competition by rigging bids, allocating customers, and fixing the price for liquid aluminum sulfate sold to cities and pulp and paper companies in the United States. Brian C. Steppig, former director of sales and marketing for a water treatment chemicals manufacturer headquartered in Lafayette, Ind., admitted to agreeing with competitors from approximately 2005 until February 2011 not to compete for contracts for liquid aluminum sulfate, which is a coagulant used by municipalities to treat drinking water and wastewater and by pulp and paper companies in their manufacturing processes.

"Today's result reflects the Antitrust Division's ongoing efforts to hold accountable those who seek to corrupt the competitive process and cheat customers," said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. "This offense was particularly egregious, counting among its victims cities and towns throughout the southeastern United States that relied on the conspirators' products to provide clean water to their residents."

"The FBI is thorough in ensuring that anyone intent on corrupting our free market system is brought to justice," added Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the FBI's Newark Division. "Corruption and collusion at any level in our society is unacceptable as it has such a negative impact on the consumer."

According to court documents in the case, Steppig and his co-conspirators agreed not to pursue each other's historical customers and, to carry out that agreement, they discussed prices to be quoted to customers and submitted intentionally losing bids to favor the intended winner.

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. Including Steppig, two individuals and one company have pleaded guilty to charges arising out of this federal investigation of collusion in the liquid aluminum sulfate industry, according to DOJ.

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