Spitzer Announces Recipients Of $18.5 Million Consumer Settlement From Vitamin Price-fixing Case

State Attorney General Spitzer today announced that as a result of settling an historic price-fixing case against top vitamin manufacturers, 106 projects with the express purpose of improving the health, nutrition and agriculture of New Yorkers will be established and/or enhanced.

In October 2000, New York was the lead state in antitrust negotiations that resulted in six of the world's largest vitamin manufacturers agreeing to pay up to $225 million for fixing the prices and controlling the sale of vitamins and vitamin products. The conspiracy resulted in consumers and business paying an extra quarter of a billion dollars for products over the past decade. Twenty-one states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia will share in the settlement.

Spitzer had announced that New York's share, just under $19 million, would be used to fund programs such as prenatal care, livestock, nutrition and hunger prevention. Applications were reviewed by the Attorney General's office and the recommendations were approved on Friday by the State Supreme Court.

"I'm thrilled that as a result of our settlement, both consumers and critical health and nutrition programs will benefit," Spitzer said. "This settlement is another example of our strong commitment to protecting businesses and New Yorkers from anticompetitive practices."

The settlement with the six vitamin manufacturers -- Hoffman-La Roche, BASF Corp, Aventis Animal Nutrition Sa, Takeda Chemical, Eisai Co. Ltd, and Daiichi Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd, is the largest ever under state law that permits consumers and businesses to recover damages for price-fixing overcharges even though they did not buy a product directly from the price-fixers.

The vitamins made by these companies were used in a wide variety of everyday products including milk, bread, cereal, juices, baby food, pet food, dietary supplements and beauty products such as lipstick and hair care products. Thus, the programs selected to share in the $18.5 million cover a wide-range of services including programs that promote food banks, prenatal and child health nutrition, and nutrition programs for traditionally under-served or needy populations such as minority, immigrant, rural and elderly populations.

In recognition of the difficulty of identifying the individual consumers of vitamins and vitamin enriched products, the court approved a cy pres distribution for the consumer settlement in which not for profit organizations and political subdivisions would receive funding to promote health, nutrition and agriculture in New York.

Organizations will be notified of their award amount and requirements via correspondence from the Attorney General's office within seven business days.

The matter was handled in the Attorney General's office by Deputy Bureau Chief Kathleen Harris of the AG's Antitrust Bureau, along with Assistant Attorneys General Gary Weinstein and James Yoon. In addition, Director of Policy Research Mindy Bockstein in the AG's Policy & Program Development unit assisted in handling the matter.