Potash miners settle antitrust claims – by Peter Koven (National Post – January 31, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Saskatchewan’s Big Three potash producers have agreed to pay a total of US$97.5-million to settle U.S. antitrust allegations they colluded to keep prices artificially high.

The deal ends a legal battle that dates back to 2008. But despite the settlement, Bill Doyle went out of his way to express his utter contempt for the class-action proceedings.

In a lengthy statement, the chief executive of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan derided the claims as an example of the “well-documented abuse of class actions” in the United States in which “self-interested” lawyers assert “meritless” claims because they and their clients have nothing to lose. He called it a “wasteful and unnecessary” cost of doing business in the United States.

Nonetheless, he is happy to have the matter behind him. “The reality is that we weighed the multi-year effort in time and resources that would have been required to defend this lawsuit, and determined that our management should remain focused on the production of potash and serving our customers,” he said.

Potash Corp. and Mosaic Co. agreed to pay US$43.75-million each to settle the claims, while Agrium Inc. is paying US$10-million.

t is a minimal amount of money for these companies, given they all have quarterly sales in the billions of dollars. The relatively small settlements were expected after Russian producer OAO Uralkali settled with the plaintiffs last year for US$12.75-million.

But the price-fixing allegations were a significant overhang for these companies, as they attacked the very method in which they conduct their business.

For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/01/30/potash-miners-settle-antitrust-claims/