The Antitrust Revolution: Economics, Competition, and Policy

By John E. Kwoka Jr.; Lawrence J. White | Go to book overview

CASE 10
Global Cartels Redux: The Amino
Acid Lysine Antitrust Litigation (1996)

John M. Connor


INTRODUCTION

In the evening of June 27, 1995, more than seventy FBI agents simultaneously raided the world headquarters of Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) in Decatur, Illinois, and interviewed a number of ADM officers in their homes. Serving subpoenas authorized by a federal grand jury sitting in Chicago, the agents collected documents related to ADM's lysine, citric acid, and corn-sweeteners businesses. Within a day or two, investigators had also raided the offices of four other companies that manufactured or imported lysine. These subpoenaed documents, together with hundreds of secret tape recordings of the conspirators' meetings and conversations, built a strong case that five companies had been illegally colluding on lysine prices around the world for three years.

The FBI raids were widely reported in the mass media and unleashed a torrent of legal actions, some of which were still unresolved seven years later.1 The three major federal antitrust actions were the result of an undercover investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that had begun

John M. Connor provided expert opinions for a law firm representing plaintiffs in the class action
encaptioned as Amino Acid Lysine Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1083 (Northern District of Illi-
nois 1996). He also wrote opinions as a consultant for the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Depart-
ment of Justice during the sentencing phase of its criminal trial U.S. v. Michael D. Andreas et al.,
in which three officers of the Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. were prosecuted for lysine price fixing.

1By the end of fiscal 1996 (June 30, 1996), ADM was a defendant in an antitrust suit or target of a
government investigation in seventy-nine cases, of which twenty-one related to lysine. In subse-
quent fiscal years, the number of active suits or investigations varied from twenty-two to forty-one
(ADM 2001). In 2002, ADM was appealing a lysine conspiracy fine levied by the European Com-
mission and faced three indirect-purchaser suits in lysine.

-252-

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