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Philadelphia—A federal judge has prohibited prosecutors from bringing any indictment against a Norwegian corporation that entered into an amnesty program with the U.S. Department of Justice and provided information about a price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy that led to guilty pleas from two of its co-conspirators and more than $62 million in fines. In his 31-page opinion in Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group v. United States, Judge Timothy J. Savage of Pennsylvania’s eastern district concluded that the company had fulfilled its obligations under an immunity agreement and is therefore entitled to an injunction that bars the filing of an indictment. Prosecutors argued that Stolt-Nielsen (SNTG) misled the government by claiming that its participation in the antitrust conspiracy had ceased in March 2002. But Savage found that the amnesty agreement explicitly immunized SNTG and its executives from prosecution for activity prior to Jan. 15, 2003. Since the government drafted the agreement, Savage said, it “cannot depend upon a tacit understanding of what it contends was meant during negotiations but was not memorialized in the integrated agreement.” Savage concluded that the only way to protect SNTG’s due process rights was to decide-prior to the filing of any indictment-whether the government was entitled to void the immunity agreement. The evidence, Savage found, showed that SNTG never breached the agreement, and that the Department of Justice was therefore not entitled to void it. “When it entered into the agreement, DOJ never intended to prosecute SNTG. Its goals were to pursue SNTG’s co-conspirators and to break up the conspiracy. It got what it had bargained for in the agreement,” Savage wrote. “SNTG’s partners in the conspiracy were prosecuted and convicted, and the conspiracy has been terminated. Now that it has received the benefit of the bargain, DOJ cannot prosecute the party that incriminated itself when it delivered the evidence DOJ used to accomplish its goals.” The ruling is a victory for SNTG’s lawyers, George J. Terwilliger III, Christopher M. Curran, J. Mark Gidley and Lucius B. Lau of White & Case’s Washington office and Ian M. Comisky and Matthew D. Lee of Blank Rome in Philadelphia.

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