August 28, 2006

Canada slaps prohibition order on Sotheby’s

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's antitrust watchdog has obtained
a prohibition order against Sotheby's auction house aimed at
preventing it from illegal price-fixing schemes like the one it
engaged in with Christie's six years ago.

The Competition Bureau obtained the order from the Federal
Court of Canada, barring Sotheby's and Sotheby's Canada --
based in New York and Toronto, respectively -- from fixing
prices with rivals for international auctions, and forcing the
company to inform employees and clients of the strict
compliance order.

Sotheby's was previously fined in the United States and
Europe for fixing prices and commissions with rival auction
firm Christie's from 1993 and 2000, preventing sellers from
getting the best prices on their auctioned goods.

The firms control about 90 percent of the high-end
international market for art and collectible auctions.

Canada's investigation into the conspiracy found no
evidence that the illegal cartel affected auctions in Canada,
but that Sotheby's and Sotheby's Canada may have prompted
Canadians to sell their property abroad via auctions that were
subject to the illegal commissions.

"The prohibition order is fairly extensive, the key point
being that you have a corporate compliance program set in
motion to educate the people involved but also making sure the
company stays abreast of its obligations," said Denyse
McKenzie, senior deputy commissioner for corporate crime at the
Competition Bureau.

Sotheby's must report to Canadian authorities yearly to
confirm compliance and pay up to C$800,000 ($720,000) to cover
the cost of the investigation.