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Sat Jun 8, 2013, 10:52 AM

Mars, Nestle, Hershey accused of chocolate price-fixing conspiracy in Canada [View all]

http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/07/18820597-mars-nestle-hershey-accused-of-chocolate-price-fixing-conspiracy-in-canada?lite

By Ian Johnston, Staff Writer, NBC News

Nestle, Mars and Hershey companies in Canada have been charged with conspiring with others to fix the price of chocolate, authorities said.

Nestle Canada and Mars Canada both said they would “vigorously defend” themselves against the claims.

Canada’s Competition Bureau said in a statement that Hershey Canada was expected to plead guilty later this month “for its role in the conspiracy to fix the price of chocolate confectionery products in Canada.”

However, the bureau said that Hershey had “cooperated” with the investigation and it had recommended to prosecutors that it should receive “lenient treatment.”

SNIP

ITWAL Ltd., a national network of independent wholesale distributors, has also been charged along with Robert Leonidas, former president of Nestlé Canada; Sandra Martinez, former president of confectionery for Nestlé Canada; and David Glenn Stevens, president and chief executive of ITWAL.

The Competition Bureau said it became aware of the allegations under a program in which the first party to disclose an offense “may receive immunity” from prosecution.

“Subsequent cooperating parties may receive lenient treatment under the Bureau's Leniency Program,” it added. “These programs provide powerful incentives for business organizations and individuals to come forward and cooperate with the Bureau's investigations.”

The bureau said the accused “face the possibility of a fine of up to $10 million and/or imprisonment for a term of up to five years.”

SNIP

Hershey Canada said in a statement that it had "promptly reported the conduct to the Competition Bureau, cooperated fully with its investigation and did not implement the planned price increase that was the subject of the 2007 communications."

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