U.S. revokes Stolt-Nielsen amnesty

U.S. revokes Stolt-Nielsen amnesty

The U.S. Department of Justice revoked an agreement providing Norway's Stolt-Nielsen S.A. and its employees amnesty in connection with possible price-fixing in the product tanker industry, the shipping company said on Sunday.

Stolt-Nielsen said in a statement that Justice's antitrust division had voided its conditional leniency agreement and revoked its acceptance into the agency's Corporate Leniency Program.

Chief Executive Niels G. Stolt-Nielsen said the company fundamentally disagreed with the decision and vowed to "vigorously challenge" it.

The company received conditional acceptance to the program in February 2003 after voluntarily notifying the Justice's Antitrust Division and the Competition Directorate of the European Commission about potential improper collusive behavior in its parcel tanker and intra-Europe inland barge operations.

The program provided a subsidiary of the company, Stolt-Nielsen Transport Group, its directors and employees amnesty from criminal antitrust prosecution and fines in the U.S. for anti-competitive behavior as long as the company cooperated with investigators.

The company entered a similar agreement with the European Commission, but said in regulatory filings its immunity would depend on Justice and European Commission's satisfaction with Stolt-Nielsen's efforts to meet the conditions of the programs.

Last June, the U.S. charged Richard Wingfield, who ran Stolt-Nielsen's tanker trading group, for allegedly collusive behavior in the parcel tanker industry.