By Peter N Henderson
TORONTO, June 6 Canada has charged two of the
world's biggest candy makers, Nestle SA and Mars Inc,
with colluding to fix the price of chocolate, the Canadian
competition watchdog said on Thursday.
Canada's Competition Bureau recommended lenient treatment
for the Canadian arm of Hershey Co, which cooperated
with the investigation. Hershey said it had reached a deal with
the bureau, and would plead guilty to a single count of price
Both Mars and Nestle said they intend to "vigorously defend"
themselves against the allegations.
In its statement Hershey expressed regret for its actions
and blamed workers who had already left the company.
"The current Hershey Canada senior management team as well
as The Hershey Company and its management had no involvement in
this conduct," the statement said.
The Competition Bureau has been probing the allegations of
price fixing for five years in a scandal that has already
resulted in a major class-action suit. Hershey, Mars and Nestle
all agreed to settlements as part of that suit.
A similar class-action suit in the United States is still
making its way through a Pennsylvania court.
The Canadian Competition Bureau has also charged ITWAL
Limited, a national network of independent wholesale
distributors, as well as three individuals: Robert Leonidas, the
former chief executive of Nestle Canada; Sandra Martinez, former
Nestle Canada president and David Glenn Stevens, president and
chief executive ITWAL Limited.
The three executives face up to five years in prison if
convicted, while the companies and the executives could each be
fined up to $10 million.