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Two former executives with agri-business giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. played such major roles in a multi-million dollar price-fixing scheme that they should be given longer prison sentences, a federal appeals court ruled June 26. When sentenced last summer, Michael D. Andreas and Terrance S. Wilson were each given two years in prison despite pleas from federal prosecutors that the sentences should be longer because of their leadership roles. In an opinion released Monday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the cases back for re-sentencing because the district court erred in “focusing on the conspiracy as a union of equals” and not recognizing that Andreas and Wilson played more important parts. “Neither (Wilson) nor Andreas can claim in any meaningful way to be merely equally culpable with the other conspirators since it was ADM that suggested the scheme, planned it and carried it out,” the opinion said. ( United States v. Michael D. Andreas and Terrance S. Wilson, No. 99-3907, et al.) Judge Michael S. Kanne wrote the opinion, joined by Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner and Judge Terence T. Evans. Andreas, the company’s former executive vice president, and Wilson, the retired head of its corn division, were convicted in 1998 following a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago for conspiring with Japanese and South Korean companies to fix the price of lysine, an animal growth stimulant. Under the federal guidelines, when re-sentenced the pair could receive up to an additional 12 months of prison time. In a statement, Joel Klein, assistant U.S. attorney general of the anti-trust division said that the court’s decision showed that “price-fixing is a major criminal offense that merits stiff punishment.” Washington, D.C., attorney John D. Bray, who represented Michael Andreas, was not available for comment. Reid H. Weingarten, of the Washington, D.C., firm of Steptoe & Johnson and who represented Terrance Wilson, also was not available for comment. Mark Whitacre, a third defendant and the former chief of ADM’s bioproducts division, was also convicted in the price-fixing scheme and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, although he did not join the appeal. Whitacre became a federal informant after going to the FBI with an offer to make audiotapes of meetings involving colleagues and other cartel members discussing the price-fixing as a way to deflect attention to his own illegal activities within the company. His whistleblower status would later be tarnished when he was convicted and sentenced to federal prison for swindling $9 million from the company. The use of the tapes in the trial was one of a number of issues raised by Andreas and Wilson to have the appellate justices reverse the guilty verdicts that were affirmed in the opinion. Whitacre was acting under “the color of the law” when making the tapes and did not violate federal wiretapping laws, the opinion said. In addition, the opinion said, although Whitacre lied, cheated, failed to follow orders, and “had delusions of grandeur that would make Napoleon blush,” that did not affect the accuracy of the recording equipment he used to capture full conversations that were corroborated by other witnesses. The judges also rebuffed the argument that Whitacre did not record conversations that were exculpatory. “While evidence that an informant selectively failed to record exculpatory evidence would raise due process concerns, the defendants produced no such evidence,” the opinion said. “Rather, they rely merely on an assumption that because Whitacre was dishonest and sought to benefit from having his superiors convicted, then he must have selectively failed to record exculpatory conversations.”

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