XENIA — Entities in Greene County will receive about $132,000 as part of a $11.5 million antitrust lawsuit settlement. The settlement comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine against Cargill Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. regarding the two companies’ past rock salt prices.
DeWine’s settlement with Cargill and Morton Salt resolved a 2012 lawsuit accusing the companies of dividing up the Ohio rock salt market and agreeing not to compete with each other for public bids during a period ending in 2010, according to a release from DeWine’s office.
Although Morton and Cargill admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, the two companies agreed to pay $11.5 million to resolve the state’s case, just before a jury trial was set to begin.
Ten entities in the county will receive funds as part of the settlement: the Greene County Engineer ($44,673.94), the city of Beavercreek ($38,582.66), the city of Fairborn ($14,996.13), the city of Xenia ($10,112.21), the city of Bellbrook ($6,498.65), Sugarcreek Township ($5,810.43), Wright State University ($4,437.92), Beavercreek Township ($3.640.33), Bath Township ($2,161.28) and New Jasper Township ($1,303.11).
Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer called the $44,000 his office will receive back “a drop in the bucket” compared to what he spent on salt.
“I got a $1.50 back a ton for three years of salt that I paid twice what I should’ve been paying for it,” he said. “I was paying $60, $70, $80 a ton in salt and other states adjoining us were selling for $30 and $40 a ton.”
Geyer said the attorney general’s office had “circumstantial case” and said this was a settlement that was made “rather than go to court and get nothing, we’ll take what we can get.”
“Yeah I’m glad I got $44,000 back, that’ll pave another mile of road this year out of 330 miles,” Geyer said. “… It’s an absolute drop in the bucket to what the whole thing was. I bought 24-25,000 tons of salt in those three years and probably spent in excess of a million dollars and I got $44,000 back, because of so-called collusion and bid-rigging. Yeah I’m glad I got $44,000, but I’m disappointed it wasn’t more.”
These local entities join 848 other entities throughout the state in receiving a $6.8 million portion of funds from the settlement. According to the attorney general’s office, additional payments were allotted to the Ohio Department of Transportation ($1.7 million), the Ohio Turnpike Commission ($174,435), and, as required by law, the state’s antitrust fund.
In a statement released by Cargill in June when the settlement was reached, the company said it was “pleased” that the lawsuit was dismissed and noted that it had “emphatically denied the allegations” since the lawsuit was filed.
“We have always acted ethically and in line with our guiding principles. The [Ohio Attorney General] accepts that there is no admission of guilt,” a company executive stated in a release. “… The lawsuit was based on a 2011 Ohio Inspector General’s report, but that same document stated that the Inspector General ‘did not find evidence that (Cargill and Morton) communicated on salt bids.’”
A request for comment from Morton was not returned by press time.