Chiquita: Employees Shared Price Info With Rivals

Chiquita Brands International Inc. (CQB) said on Friday that some employees shared pricing and volume information with European competitors over many years, and said it is cooperating with a European Commission (search) investigation.

EU antitrust authorities raided banana and pineapple distributors suspected of fixing prices in Europe after Chiquita blew the whistle, the European Commission and companies said on Friday.

Chiquita it recently discovered that some employees may have also engaged in other conduct in violation of European competition laws and its own policies. The company said it ended such conduct and told the European Commission of these matters.

Chiquita said it also found that employees in an unnamed Latin American country shared information with competitors about the volume of fruit shipped to North America.

The company said it was granted immunity from certain fines since it voluntarily notified and cooperated with the European Commission's investigation regarding possible violations of European competition law throughout the industry.

The Commission grants immunity from fines to the first member of a cartel to name its partners, and Chiquita won it.

The Commission identified none of the companies raided in Germany, Belgium, Britain and Ireland, but Chiquita, Ireland's Fyffes and Dole Food Co. (search) acknowledged they were raided. Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. (FDP) and Ecuador's Noboa, two other players in the industry, were not available for comment on whether or not they had been raided.

Chiquita declined to comment which Latin American country the company was referring to, but said the matter dealt with bananas and pineapples and said it does not believe that such conduct involved any anti-competitive behavior.

Chiquita said the appropriate regulatory authorities in the United States and Canada were notified and that at this point, those authorities have not initiated any investigation.