On Thursday, June 06, 2013, the Competition Bureau laid criminal charges against three corporations and three individuals for their roles in allegedly fixing the price of chocolate confectionery products in Canada.
The alleged price-fixing occurred before the 2010 amendments to the Competition Act, and the accused have been charged under the criminal cartel provision in the old section 45. Under that provision, the Bureau must prove not only that there was an agreement between competitors to fix prices but also that the agreement had or was likely to unduly lessen competition in a market. If convicted, the accused face fines of up to $10 million and/or a prison term of up to five years.
The three corporations charged are Nestlé Canada Inc.; Mars Canada Inc.; and ITWAL Limited, an independent wholesale distribution network. The three individuals charged are Robert Leonidas, former President of Nestlé; Sandra Martinez, former President of Confectionery for Nestlé; and David Glenn Stevens, current President and CEO of ITWAL. Reports indicate the accused intend to defend the charges.
The Bureau learned of the alleged price-fixing through its Immunity Program. Under the Program, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) may grant immunity or leniency to the first party who discloses an undetected conspiracy or to provide evidence leading to a referral of evidence to the PPSC. Hershey Canada Inc. cooperated with the Bureau throughout its investigation and the Bureau has recommended to the PPSC that Hershey receive lenient treatment. Hershey is expected to plead guilty on June 21, 2013 for its role in the chocolate price-fixing conspiracy.