The Environmental Law Group currently represents drinking water suppliers in several states in litigation against companies that make liquid aluminum sulfate (known as “Alum”), a chemical that removes impurities and other substances from water before it is served to the public. There is evidence that General Chemical, Chemtrade, and GEO Specialty Chemicals Inc., the companies that make and supply Alum, colluded and conspired to raise the price of the product. The Department of Justice found the evidence compelling enough to investigate and determined that the three companies had in fact conspired from 1997 to 2010. That investigation resulted in the guilty plea of a former executive at General Chemical to charges of price-fixing, bid rigging, and customer allocation in the U.S. market. Another company plead guilty for conspiracy to eliminate competition to supply Alum to municipalities and pulp and paper manufacturers throughout the United States.

As a result of the conspirators’ efforts to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers, Alum prices increased above competitive levels. Between 2002 and 2007, Alum prices increased from $260 per ton ($0.13 per pound) to $360 per ton ($0.18 per pound). Often, price increases by industry participants, including General Chemical, were made in lockstep. Sales of Alum by General Chemical and its coconspirators in the United States between 1997 and 2010 totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, though the exact figure is unknown. DOJ estimates that General Chemical and its co-conspirators received millions of dollars in overcharges from their customers over their 13-year conspiracy. DOJ’s investigation into collusion in the Alum market, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office and the FBI’s New Jersey Office, is still ongoing.

ELG initiated litigation against these companies on behalf of public water providers to recover the overcharges they paid. The litigation is in the earliest phase and may continue for several years.

How Baron & Budd Can Help

If you are a drinking water provider who has purchased Alum from one of the conspirators, you may be able to take legal action in an effort to obtain compensation. Please contact the national law firm of Baron & Budd by calling 866-364-6376 or complete our contact form. We will carefully listen to the details of your case and let you know how we may be able to help.

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