Criminal charges of price-fixing and bid-rigging against several lighting rep agencies in Minnesota were dismissed. The Minnesota attorney general's office has filed to appeal the decision. Civil actions against the reps are on hold, awaiting the outcome of the appeal.
In a decision bolstered with a 15-page memorandum delving into the inner workings of the commercial lighting market, Judge Myron S. Greenberg of the Hennepin County District Court ruled in late January that charges of conspiracy to fix prices and to rig bids are dismissed.
The charges had been filed against six Minnesota agencies: Luma Sales Associates, Bloomington; Lighting Associates/Eon Light, Maple Grove; Jordano Associates Ltd., Brooklyn Center; Norwest Lighting, Inc., Crystal; Liteco, Inc., Eden Prairie; and R.L. Mlazgar Associates, Inc., Eden Prairie. The same charges were filed against six individuals: David George Osborne, former quote person with Viking Electric Supply, St. Paul; Thomas Lee Powell, a rep for Jordano Associates; Steven Wayne Eggert, a quote person for Luma Sales; William Hunt, president of Norwest Lighting; Daniel Arthur DeLong, president of Jordano Associates; and Carianne Maki of Luma Sales. Criminal antitrust charges against all were dismissed.
The charges involved allegations that Osborne, while employed at Viking Electric Supply, obtained lighting reps' agreements to give him price protection on a number of municipal lighting projects by quoting other distributors a higher price.
Judge Greenberg based his decision on a view that the pricing arrangements allegedly made by the defendants were vertical within the lighting industry rather than horizontal in nature. Under relevant Minnesota and U.S. law only horizontal constraints qualify as criminal price fixing and bid rigging. One rep's quotation was in no way binding on another rep, Greenberg found, and other distributors could have made precisely the same deal with the reps.