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Crompton Corp. said it expects to pay $97 million to settle three class action lawsuits stemming from its role in an international conspiracy to fix prices in the rubber additives market. Crompton, which had sales of $2.2 billion in 2003, produces specialty chemicals and polymer products used to make rubber and plastics. The company has about 5,400 employees worldwide, including 650 workers at its Middlebury, Conn., headquarters, 65 at its research and development installation in Naugatuck, Conn., and 34 at a center in Bethany, Conn. The additives are used to improve the strength and durability of products such as tires, shoes and belts. Kenneth Feinberg, the special master who oversaw the Sept. 11 victims’ compensation fund, will act as a mediator and help determine how the funds will be distributed among the three classes, the company said Wednesday. Crompton said it will establish a $93.1 million reserve in its 2004 financial reports to help cover the settlement. “We believe this settlement represents a good resolution of a very difficult issue,” Robert L. Wood, chairman, president and chief executive of Crompton, said in a statement. “It allows us to reduce risks associated with prolonged litigation and potential treble damages. We also believe it is a fair resolution with respect to the company and our customers.” The settlement, “while costly, is manageable,” he said. Each of the three courts where the lawsuits are pending will be asked to give preliminary approval, the company said. Crompton agreed to plead guilty in the United States and Canada last March to participating in an international conspiracy to eliminate competition in the rubber chemicals industry, and to pay about $57 million in fines to U.S. and Canadian authorities over the next five years. The company still faces three other class action suits filed by direct purchasers in courts in Quebec and Ontario, Canada, as well as a number of suits filed by indirect purchasers in 15 states in the U.S. Crompton shares rose 2 cents to close at $10.99 in Thursday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Crompton shares have traded in a 52-week range of $5.02 to $12.08. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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