Ballard Spahr—with the Baltimore City Solicitor’s Office—is representing the City of Baltimore in a lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that numerous chemical companies and individuals violated federal antitrust laws by conspiring to increase the prices of aluminum sulfate purchased by the City.

Aluminum sulfate is a chemical purchased in bulk by municipalities, including Baltimore, to treat water. The lawsuit stems from a criminal investigation into the aluminum sulfate industry that has resulted in several parties pleading guilty to federal charges of price fixing and bid rigging.

Baltimore’s lawsuit alleges that executives of the companies met to discuss their aluminum sulfate businesses and formulated a plan to suppress competition. It includes allegations that the companies intentionally submitted losing bids that favored a particular company or withdrew winning bids, and unlawfully discussed the price and terms of their quotes.

Ballard Spahr lawyers Jay N. Fastow, Edward D. Rogers, Jason A. Leckerman, William A. McDaniel, Jr., Justin W. Lamson, and Thomas J. Gallagher IV, together with Acting City Solicitor David Ralph and Senior Public Safety Counsel Suzanne Sangree, are representing Baltimore in the lawsuit.

“When people violate the law by getting together and devising a scheme to stifle competition and overcharge us, they are cheating the taxpayers—and we take that very seriously,” said Mayor Catherine Pugh. “Managing the City budget to provide essential services like clean water, safe streets, and opportunities for youth is extremely important. We are committed to getting fair deals, and going after the perpetrators of fraud.”

The complaint alleges that the defendants violated federal antitrust law and the laws of the State of Maryland. Antitrust law allows a successful plaintiff to recover three times its damages. While the lawsuit was filed in Maryland, it likely will be transferred for pre-trial proceedings to the federal court in Newark, New Jersey, where dozens of similar lawsuits arising from the alleged scheme are coordinated in multidistrict litigation. A trial would take place in Baltimore.

“The suppliers named in this suit conspired to deprive Baltimore and its residents of the competitive pricing they had every right to expect, and inflated the prices Baltimore had to pay,” said David Ralph. “We have every intention of holding them accountable.”

Related Area