A federal grand jury yesterday indicted 14 major corporations and 26 their current or former executives on charges of fixing the prices of the corrugated cardboard boxes used by companies to pack and slip their goods.
Two indictments, filed in U.S. District Court in Houston, charged that a conspiracy to set the prices of corrugated containers and sheets east of the Rocky Mountains has continued since at least 1960 until today.
The companies named in the indictments include the top three producers in the industry: International Paper Co., Container Corp. of America, and Weyerhaeuser Co.
One indictment alleges felony violations of the antitrust laws by nine corporations and nine of their officials. In addition to International Paper and Weyerhaeuser, other companies cited on felony charges were Alton Box Board Co., Consolidated Packaging Corp., The Continental Group, Inc., Hoerner Waldorf Corp., The Mead Corp., Olinkraft, Inc., and Owens-Illinois, Inc.
The maximum penalty upon conviction for felony price fixing is three years in prison and a fine of $100,000 for an individual, and a fine of $1 million for a corporation.
The second indictment names five corporations and 17 officers on misdemeanor price-fixing charges for their alleged participation in the conspiracy prior to Dec. 21, 1974. On that date a new law changed the penalty for violations of the Sherman Act from misdemeanors to felonies.
In addition to Container Corp., also named in the misdemeanor [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Corp., Inland Container Corp., St. Joe Paper Co., and Stone Container Corp.
Among the individuals named in the misdemeanor indictment were eight officers of the corporations named in the felony indictment.
The maximum penalty upon conviction for misdeameanor price fixing is a $50,000 fine and a year in prison for an individual.
The 14 corporations together accounted for sales of corrugated containers ad sheets totalling $2.2 billion in 1974, the indictment states, Corrugated containers accounted for about 18 per cent of all packaging sales in 1975, the indictment noted, and are used by a wide variety of industries because they are considered strong, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive.
Justice Department officials said there is no way to estimate what the cost to consumers might be from the alleged conspiracy.