Argos USA of Alpharetta, Ga., has entered a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) resolving a DOJ Antitrust Division charge of conspiring to fix prices, rig bids and allocate sales for ready mixed concrete in Savannah, Ga., and neighboring markets under U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia jurisdiction, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division.
The DPA stems from an Antitrust Division complaint based on the investigation behind an indictment returned to the Savannah court in September 2020. In that case, U.S. Attorneys outlined Sherman Act violations involving Evans Concrete LLC and two employees, plus two former Argos USA employees – one ready mixed concrete sales manager, one cement salesman. The producer and individuals await trial in the District Court on charges mirroring those in United States of America v. Argos USA LLC, filed Jan. 4, 2021.
The DPA requires the producer to pay a $20 million criminal penalty, admit to participating in the conspiracy and cooperate fully with an ongoing Antitrust Division investigation and related prosecution pursuits. Argos USA will also a) maintain a compliance and ethics program designed to prevent and detect antitrust violations; and, b) conduct periodic reviews and submit annual reports to the Antitrust Division. Defendant and plaintiff attorneys will file a joint motion, subject to court approval, to defer for the DPA term any prosecution and trial of the charges in the complaint.
Argos USA inherited liability for the antitrust law violations alleged in the USA v. Argos complaint upon the acquisition of Lafarge North America Southeast assets, spanning Georgia and Carolinas cement and ready mixed concrete production sites. The alleged conspiracy took place from 2010 to July 2016, when Argos USA consolidated subsidiaries, including one over a Pooler, Ga., office responsible for nearby Savannah operations.
In the DPA, federal officials cite the price-fixing conspiracy’s local nature. “The illegal conduct was limited to a small number of employees who joined the company through an asset acquisition of another company in October 2011, after the conspiracy had already begun,” U.S. Attorneys affirm. “These employees worked in a local sales office in Pooler, which was responsible for approximately 1% of the company’s annual revenues and employed less than 1% of the workforce. Management outside the office in Pooler did not participate in or condone the conduct.”