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Conn. AG initiates snow removal antitrust lawsuit

By Nick Rees | Oct 25, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen initiated an antitrust lawsuit Thursday against three snow removal and snowplowing companies and key executives following allegations that they engaged in an illegal boycott and bid-rigging conspiracy for the town of Southbury.

In addition, the complaint, at the behest of Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein, alleges violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The three companies - H.I. Stone & Son Inc., S&S Asphalt Paving Inc. and Stone Construction Company Inc. - and their respective key executives - Harry H. "Chuck" Stone, Kevin W. Starchak and George H. Stone, Jr. - allegedly conspired to engage in an illegal group boycott and a subsequent bid-rigging conspiracy in October and November 2011 in violation of both the Connecticut Antitrust Act and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.

"Connecticut taxpayers deserve the benefits of access to free and open markets," Jepsen said. "Group boycotts and bid-rigging schemes are illegal because they eliminate competition and raise prices to consumers. They also disadvantage the law-abiding businesses that seek only the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. This complaint alleges that the defendants put the town of Southbury in a no-win situation: agree to our demand to award us the work on our terms, or face the likelihood that a significant swath of town roads would be impassable."

The alleged actions occurred during the devastating October 2011 Nor'easter. The town of Southbury, which did not require bids for snow removal for many years and instead gave the work directly to the defendants without a competitive process, decided to seek competitive rates in Oct. 2011. The defendants, according to the complaint, then began colluding, jointly refusing to plow roads in the town unless a guaranteed minimum contract providing them with additional compensation in exchange for plowing during the October Nor'easter was signed.

The town, facing a significant public safety threat from the storm, was forced to sign the contract.

When a bid for the remainder of the season's snow removal work was put out, the defendants again allegedly colluded, ultimately entering into a conspiracy designed to eliminate competition while raising the prices for snowplowing services for the town.

The suit seeks restitution, civil penalties, and injunctive and equitable relief to prevent any continuing of the alleged illegal business practices.

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