Judge Throws Out Sweetener Antitrust Suit Against ADM And Nabisco Brands
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ A federal judge on Friday dismissed a 4 1/2 -year-old antitrust lawsuit alleging a conspiracy by Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Nabisco Brands Co. to restrain competition in the market for a corn sweetener.
The antitrust division of the Justice Department sued both companies in December 1982 over the acquisition earlier that year by ADM of a Nabisco Brands subsidiary, the Clinton Corn Processing Co., with plants in Clinton, Iowa, and Montezuma, N.Y.
The government said that through the lease agreement ADM became the nation’s leading producer of high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener, with 41 percent of the nation’s production.
The government claimed the production of high fructose corn syrup was a separate line of commerce.
But ADM said that when the entire U.S. market for nutritive sweeteners was considered it had only a 9 percent share of the market.
In a brief order Friday, U.S. District Judge Harold D. Vietor said ″the relevant product market is not limited to high fructose corn syrup; therefore, there is no genuine issue about relevant product market left to try.″
Vietor, the chief judge for the southern district of Iowa, promised an opinion explaining his decision at a later date.
Mark Sheehan, a Justice Department spokesman in Washington, said no decision had been made whether to appeal the ruling. He said the department’s antitrust division would have to review Vietor’s opinion before deciding on an appeal.
Doug Snyder, a spokesman for ADM at the company’s Decatur, Ill., headquarters, said of the order: ″I guess the main thing is it confirms our right to continue to operate those facilities as we had been the past four years.″
He added, ″Our argument was you cannot just look at the corn sweetener industry, because corn sweeteners are part of the total nutritive sweetener market.″
Nabisco Brands has since merged with another company and now is part of RJR-Nabisco Inc. Hank Sandbach, a spokesman in East Hanover, N.J., said Friday afternoon that he could not comment on the order because lawyers familiar with the case already had left for the weekend.
The Justice Department in its civil antitrust suit sought the return of the business to Nabisco Brands and sought orders preventing ADM from acquiring that business and preventing Nabisco Brands from acquiring the same line of business from ADM.