Guilty plea in US concrete cartel case

By Helen Wright11 July 2011

US ready-mix concrete producer, VS Holding, faces a US$ 100 million fine after pleading guilty to fixing prices for the product in collusion with two other producers.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said Iowa-based VS Holding, formerly known as Alliance Concrete, participated in the cartel from at least January 2006 until as late as January 2008.

Ready-mix concrete is widely used on road building projects and other general construction work and consists of cement, aggregate (sand and gravel), water and other additives.

Bid rigging

The DoJ said former president of VS Holding Steven VandeBrake negotiated sales of the product sold in the northern district of Iowa at collusive and non-competitive prices. Mr VandeBrake is also said to have submitted rigged bids to customers in Iowa and elsewhere.

The company is charged with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, which carries a fine of US$ 100 million for corporations - a figure which may be increased if the profits gained in the collusion are found to outweigh the fine.

The DoJ said the guilty plea was the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into the ready-mix concrete industry in Iowa and its surrounding states. It said that three individuals have so far been convicted and sentenced, while VS Holding and two other unnamed ready-mix concrete companies had pled guilty and were awaiting sentencing.

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