SPARKS, Md. -- McCormick & Co. here, the nation's largest spice supplier to food retailers, is in talks with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that should lead to a non-financial settlement in a price-discrimination case in about one week, according to company reports.
Allegations against the company involve three contracts out of 2,200 examined by the FTC, the company's chairman, Robert J. Lawless, told SN. As previously reported by SN, McCormick came under fire for allegedly paying retailers different allowances for premier shelf positioning of its spices.
Lawless, who would not disclose the customers' identities, said "We strongly disagree" with the FTC staff finding. "We believe it is in the best interest of our stockholders to enter into a settlement as long as it does not impair our ability to compete in the future," Lawless said.
"Despite our excellent performance, we believe our current market valuation has been adversely affected by the uncertainty surrounding the FTC investigation begun in 1996," Lawless said in a statement.
"We take extraordinary care to ensure that we are in compliance with the Robinson-Patman Act. It is our belief that we were meeting the competition in the three contracts challenged by the FTC," the statement said. Lawless said the company will make an announcement when the settlement is concluded.