We wrote a few weeks back about the criminal trial of three executives accused of fixing prices for water storage tanks that has been taking place in London. The three executives, each one from a different company alleged to have participated in the cartel, faced charges of: "dishonestly agreeing with others to divide customers, fix prices and rig bids between 2004 and 2012 in respect of the supply in the UK of galvanized steel tanks for water storage."
One of the executives, Peter Nigel Snee, who was a director of Franklin Hodge Industries at the time of the alleged cartel, pleaded guilty. The two other executives, Clive Dean, who was a director of Kondea Water Supplies and Nicholas Stringer, who was a director of Galglass, pleaded not guilty.
After deliberating for just 2 hours and 30 minutes (following three weeks of evidence), and in a unanimous verdict, the jury found Dean and Stringer not guilty of criminally conspiring to fix prices customers paid. Key to the acquittals was the failure of the antitrust authorities to persuade the jury that the executives had acted dishonestly. Mr Snee will appear before the judge for sentencing later in the year.
The UK has now changed the nature of the cartel offence to remove the requirement for dishonesty. The Competition and Markets Authority must be hoping that it can nail a successful prosecution in the very near future.