Former CEO of Morgan Crucible Convicted for Price-Fixing Scheme

Morgan Crucible Co.’s former chief executive officer, Ian Norris, was found guilty in the U.S. of conspiring to obstruct justice in connection with a scheme to fix prices for carbon and graphite products.

A federal jury in Philadelphia yesterday acquitted Norris, 67, of trying to influence others’ grand jury testimony and of intent to induce the destruction of records. Jurors previously had declared at an impasse during about 18 hours of deliberations.

Norris was extradited from the U.K. this year, the first foreign defendant sent to the U.S. to face charges arising from a criminal antitrust investigation, Justice Department officials said in March. He was accused of ordering subordinates to destroy files describing secret talks among European makers of carbon and graphite products about fixing prices in a cartel lasting more than a decade.

Norris was part of a “long-term scheme” to stifle an investigation of the cartel, federal prosecutor Lucy McClain told jurors during the trial that began July 12. Defense lawyer Christopher Curran claimed that Norris didn’t thwart the probe and never illegally ordered document-shredding.

Morgan Crucible, founded in 1856 and based in Windsor, England, makes body armor, carbon items, ceramics, bearings and other products for the medical, automotive, aerospace and telecommunications industries. The company reported sales last year of $1.47 billion (942.6 million pounds).

Norris retired from Morgan Crucible in 2002 after battling prostate cancer and was indicted the following year. The cartel, which began in Europe, allegedly spread to the U.S. in 1989 and continued until 2000, according to a U.S. indictment.

U.K. authorities refused to allow Norris to be extradited on price-fixing charges because such activities weren’t a crime in Britain at the time. U.S. prosecutors then pressed conspiracy and obstruction counts and a London-based court backed the extradition in February.

The cartel, which included companies such as Germany’s SGL Carbon AG, France’s Carbone Lorraine SA and Austria’s Hoffmann & Co., at one time controlled about 93 percent of the European market for carbon products used in manufacturing and steelmaking. The companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and lawsuit settlements to resolve claims by government regulators and customers.

The former top executives of both SGL and UCAR International Inc. pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges tied to price fixing. Robert Koehler, SGL’s chairman, was fined $10 million while UCAR Chairman Robert Krass was sentenced to a 17-month prison term.

Morgan Crucible fell 2.3 percent in London trading. The shares have more than doubled in the past year.

Norris will be sentenced on November 2 of this year. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Justice Department.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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