July 14, 2006
Stolt-Nielsen seeks Supreme Court review
Stolt-Nielsen S.A. (NasdaqNM: SNSA; Oslo Stock Exchange: SNI) is to seek U.S. Supreme Court review of a March 2006 Third Circuit decision. The company says it is seeking "to prevent the attempt by the Justice Department's Antitrust Division to breach the Amnesty Agreement that protects Stolt-Nielsen from criminal prosecution."
"The rule of law and fundamental fairness demand that bargained-for promises, especially those given by Antitrust Division prosecutors, be kept," said James B. Hurlock, an outside director and Chair of the SNSA Board of Directors' Legal Affairs Committee.
Hurlock added, "We went into the Amnesty Program in order to protect our shareholders, and that remains our goal."
In January 2005, a U.S. federal district court in Philadelphia found that the Amnesty Agreement between Stolt-Nielsen and the Antitrust Division precluded any criminal prosecution of the company or its executives.
Stolt-Nielsen says that the district court remains the only court to have considered this case on its merits. After an evidentiary hearing featuring live witness testimony from both sides, that court issued an injunction barring the Division from bringing any indictment. The district court made 89 findings of fact, including that Stolt-Nielsen had performed its side of the bargain. The Antitrust Division has successfully prosecuted other firms based on Stolt-Nielsen's cooperation.
In March 2006, a two-judge panel of the Third Circuit appeals court reversed the injunction, holding that district courts do not have the authority to enjoin the Division prior to an indictment.
The Third Circuit did not disagree with the district court's factual findings, including its conclusion that prosecution by the Antitrust Division would breach the Amnesty Agreement.
The Third Circuit held that the appropriate procedure was for Stolt-Nielsen, following any indictment, to file a pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment based on the Amnesty Agreement defenses. The Third Circuit emphasized that Stolt-Nielsen could file such a motion immediately after any indictment.
Stolt-Nielsen today reiterated its determination to exercise all of its legal rights and remedies to resist any Antitrust Division prosecution. Stolt-Nielsen will be seeking a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the authority of federal courts to enjoin prosecutions.
If the Antitrust Division seeks indictment of the Stolt-Nielsen, the company says it "will promptly move to dismiss the indictment." The company says it would advance the very same legal arguments it prevailed upon when it convinced the district court to enjoin any prosecution based on its written Amnesty Agreement with the Antitrust Division.