Three foreign-owned companies and their executives agreed Tuesday to pay $20 million in fines for scheming to raise world prices for an animal feed additive.
The Japanese and Korean-owned companies have begun cooperating with federal investigators targeting Archer Daniels Midland, a giant American farm products company.
The defendants agreed to plead guilty to charges that they conspired to fix prices and divide worldwide sales in 1992-95 for lysine, a food additive for swine and poultry feed.
Federal authorities also are investigating whether ADM conspired with competitors to fix the prices of high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten soft drinks. No charges have been filed against ADM.
ADM learned of the federal probe last summer, when agents raided company headquarters in Decatur, Ill. ADM Vice President Mark Whitacre had worked for more than two years as an undercover mole, helping the FBI tape meetings between ADM executives and its competitors.