Thursday, September 6, 2001

Vitamin settlement
to aid isle health

The state plans to use its share
to help fund nutritional programs

By Helen Altonn

Buyers of certain vitamin products involved in price-fixing antitrust litigation are being alerted to the implementation of a landmark settlement.

Hawaii, along with 20 other states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., alleged that six worldwide vitamin companies met in secret to fix prices from 1989 to 1998.

The companies agreed last October to a $107 million settlement. In May, Hawaii Attorney General Earl Anzai sued the companies in Circuit Court to force them to implement the settlement.

Hawaii's share is a little more than $1 million, said Rodney Kimura, deputy attorney general in the Commerce and Economic Development Division.


Information about the settlement and claim forms can be obtained by calling 1-800-424-6662 or by visiting

However, the money will not be distributed directly to consumers, Kimura said. If dispersed to individuals, a big chunk of the settlement would be spent on administrative costs, Kimura said, adding that it also would be difficult to determine how much each consumer paid in higher food prices.

The money instead will be distributed according to a court-approved plan to nonprofit, charitable or government organizations and programs to improve health and nutrition of consumers.

Kimura said his office will put together a program to receive applications from interested groups or programs. Once eligible organizations have been determined, the names will be submitted to the court for approval.

The settlement involves three European companies -- Roche, BASF and Aventis (formerly Rhone-Poulenc) -- and three Japanese companies: Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., Eisai Co. Ltd. and Daiichi Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.

It is the largest under state laws allowing consumers and businesses to sue for damages caused by price-fixing overcharges, even if they did not buy directly from the price-fixing companies, officials said.

The antitrust action applies to vitamins or products including vitamin components. Such products included pills, feed for chicken, beef and fish, and foods such as milk, cereal and bread.

The case began a few years ago with Department of Justice grand jury investigations and criminal indictments against the companies and their executives. Lawsuits followed across the country.

Hawaii is not included in a second commercial settlement class affecting anyone who bought vitamin products through a third party.

However, Kimura said, "If you own a vitamin store and you're buying products from another settlement state ... you can submit a claim for a qualifying purchase to secure some portion of the commercial (settlement)."

Such businesses must know where they bought products, he said.

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