|Sotheby's President Going, Going, Gone|
|Subject||Collusion and antitrust law|
|Topic||Government and the Economy|
|Key Words||Commission fees, agreement, price-fixing, antitrust violations, fine, conspiracy|
The former president and chief executive of Sotheby's auction house, Diana D. Brooks, has pleaded guilty to fixing hundreds of millions of dollars in commission fees with the other company in the auction industry, Christie's, between 1993 and 1999. Customers were thereby unable to negotiate commission prices. The two companies would agree on which should raise their fees first, and who would follow. They also exchanged information to monitor their agreement. In addition, Sotheby's and Christie's agreed not to give interest-free loans to sellers, and to refrain from making charitable donations to potential sellers such as museums, libraries and foundations as a means of soliciting business.
In a separate case, Sotheby's pleaded guilty to price-fixing and other antitrust violations and agreed to pay a $45 million fine over five years. Christie's has not been charged because it came forward with evidence of conspiracy.
The acting assistant attorney general said, "Those charged today were engaged in classic cartel behavior - price-fixing, pure and simple. These are serious crimes and the antitrust division will prosecute them wherever they occur."
(Updated November 1, 2000)
|Source||Ralph Blumenthal and Carol Vogel, "In Plea, Sotheby's Ex-Chief Points to Her Superior," The New York Times, October 6, 2000.|
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