Executives from disposable plastic dinnerware makers Amcel Corp. and Dispoz-O Plastics Inc. were convicted of conspiring to fix prices July 22, the latest verdict resulting from an extensive federal investigation.
Amcel officials maintained their innocence and said they plan to appeal the verdict, reached by a jury in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Dispoz-O officials declined comment, but told local newspapers they plan to appeal.
The Department of Justice accused Amcel, in Watertown, Mass., and President Lloyd Gordon; and Dispoz-O, in Fountain Inn, S.C., and its President Peter Iacovelli, of conspiring between November 1991 and April 1992, and having price discussions with an executive from Polar Plastics Manufacturing Inc. in Allentown, Pa. Two Polar executives pleaded guilty in 1994.
Those discussions included a meeting at an industry trade show in October 1991 to discuss the need for a price increase and a secret meeting at LaGuardia Airport in New York on Nov. 25, 1991, to agree upon price increases, according to the indictment.
Federal officials could not be reached for comment.
But Amcel marketing manager William Kierstead said the meeting at LaGuardia was to discuss a merger of the companies, brought on because of prices that had dropped from $6 a case to $4.25 a case for medium-weight polypropylene cutlery.
``We are continuing to proclaim our innocence,'' Kierstead said. ``We do not believe that justice has been served, and we intend to vigorously pursue every possible avenue available to us to vindicate Mr. Gordon and our company.''
Prosecutors also maintained that the companies set price floors at the LaGuardia meeting and issued announcements establishing prices consistent with those floors. The companies also tried to conceal the New York meeting, according to the Justice Department.
But Kierstead said price increases for different companies sometimes follow quickly on each other because ``everybody has everybody else's price increases within 30 microseconds after it's issued.''
Polar, Dispoz-O and Amcel constituted about 15 percent of industry sales, he said.
The Justice Department said three other companies and seven other people have been convicted in its investigation, and have been fined more than $8 million and sentenced to jail terms from eight to 21 months.
Sentencing in this case is set for October.
Lloyd Gordon's son, Bradley Gordon, was named president of Amcel several weeks ago, but Lloyd will remain chief executive officer, Kierstead said.
The case lasted two weeks, and the jury deliberated for four hours.