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Crompton fined $57 million, unveils urethanes 'cartel'

By Patrick Raleigh UT On-line/news editorMiddlebury, Connecticut-Crompton Corp. has reached settlements with authorities probing anti-competition practices in the North American rubber chemicals market, but has blown the whistle on yet another alleged ‘cartel.’ Crompton has now gained conditional amnesties from US, Canadian and European Union authorities with regard to its price-fixing activities in the “urethanes and urethane chemicals market”-as it has previously done with regard to EPDM and nitrile rubber.Crompton’s urethanes and urethane chemicals business had sales of $286 million in 2003, supplying prepolymer systems for PU elastomers, TPUs, dispersions and polyols.The Middlebury-based group, meanwhile, accepted fines of $50 million and $7 million in the US and Canada, respectively, after pleading guilty to illegal practices in the rubber chemicals market. However, a European Commission probe into Crompton’s activities in this market is still on-going, the US group said. The settlements with US and Canadian authorities remain subject to court approvals, said a 15 March Crompton announcement. But the group said it “cannot predict the timing or outcome of that [the EC] investigation, including the amount of any fine that may be imposed by the EC.” The EPDM and nitrile rubber investigations are, likewise, continuing on both side of the Atlantic, as are related lawsuits against Crompton and other suppliers by shareholders and customers.Crompton said it had completed its own internal investigation into illegal trading practices and has “strengthened its training and compliance programmes and has taken personnel actions, where appropriate.” The internal investigations are “major steps in putting these issues behind us,” according to Bob Wood, Crompton’s newly appointed president and CEO, in a statement. “We continue to work diligently to resolve the pending civil litigation and the EC’s rubber chemicals investigation,” he added. “

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