Several European suppliers are facing a new lawsuit in Pennsylvania federal court over claims they conspired to fix prices of key additives for cement, concrete and mortar.
M&D Peterson LLC, a New York general contractor, filed the suit. The company accuses multiple organizations, including French construction company Saint Gobain and Swiss construction chemicals producer SIKA, of working together to artificially boost the prices of building material additives in the U.S.
According to court documents, the key ingredients at the center of the lawsuit—additives and admixtures for cement, concrete and mortar—are manufactured and sold primarily by the defendants. M&D Peterson claims the defendants had complete control of prices for crushed concrete aggregates (CCA), forcing direct purchasers to pay “supra-competitive prices.” CCAs are products added to concrete, cement or mortar and mixed with water to give a finished product certain qualities.
M&D Peterson claims the defendants suppressed and restrained price competition and fixed, raised and maintained artificially high prices throughout the U.S. This led to companies that purchased CCAs to be deprived of the “benefits of free and open competition.”
The court documents state the alleged price fixing began around May 11, 2018. M&D Peterson writes it became aware of the scheme on Oct. 17, 2023, when the European Commission (EC) conducted its surprise antitrust inspections. EC initiated the investigations with several other organizations following what it says were suspicions of anti-competitive behavior. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched its separate antitrust investigation. CMA officials said in a press release that it was in contact with additional authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
M&D Peterson alleges in the court documents that the “Defendants have been secure in their knowledge that their competitors—the other defendants—will not undercut them on price. For example, in discussing at least the third price increase made by SIKA in 2021, one industry analyst stated, ‘They are not losing sales when increasing prices because competitors will also not sell at lower prices.’ Similarly, Frank Sullivan, the chairperson and CEO of RPM International Inc., part of the Euclid Group, admitted on an earnings call in July 2023 that Euclid Group was charging too much for its CCAs but that the company (trusting that it would not be undercut on price) ‘held our pricing and held our discipline’ and, as a result, reaped substantial supra-competitive profits on its CCAs.”
Furthermore, M&D Peterson claims the defendants:
- Participated in meetings and conversations where they agreed to charge prices at certain levels and “otherwise to fix, raise, stabilize or maintain prices of CCAs, including surcharges on CCAs, sold in the U.S.; and
- Held meetings and conversed among themselves to implement, adhere and police the agreements they reached.
M&D Peterson seeks triple compensatory damages under U.S. antitrust law and an injunction that would bar the alleged conspiracy to set prices.