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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

Price-fix inquiry eyeing makers of compressors


Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp., Tecumseh Products Co., and other companies have received subpoenas in a global investigation into possible price-fixing of compressors.

Whirlpool, of Benton Harbor, Mich., said it received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tecumseh Products of Ann Arbor said this week that it had been contacted.

"The anti-trust division is investigating the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the compressor industry," a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said.

"We are coordinating with other foreign competition authorities."

Additionally, Brazil's federal police said in a statement it had served six search warrants in Sao Paulo and Santa Catarina states to gather evidence of an alleged cartel in cooling compressors. Nearly 60 federal police agents, Justice ministry anti-trust officials, and state prosecutors participated.

"The initial investigation shows that companies involved had agreed, through their managers, to fix price increases, and also exchanged commercially sensitive information, harming free competition and consumers," Brazilian police said in the statement.

Whirlpool, the world's top appliance maker, said it received the U.S. subpoena Tuesday. That same day, anti-trust authorities visited Whirlpool's subsidiaries in Brazil and Italy, asking for similar information, the company added. No details were disclosed.

Tecumseh Products disclosed it had received a Justice Department subpoena and formal information request from Brazil and said the European Commission has begun an investigation of the compressor industry.

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