Former BA exec jailed for price fixing

A former British Airways executive has pleaded guilty to price fixing in the US, and will serve eight months in jail and pay a US£20,000 fine.

Keith Packer, the former British Airways UK and Ireland corporate cargo sales manager, pleaded guilty to conspiring to fix cargo rates for air shipments to and from the US, and then monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices. His plea must be approved by a court.By agreeing a deal with prosecutors the Justice Department - which is still subject to court approval - he avoided the maximum punishment of a 10-year sentence and a US$1m fine.

Packer is the first foreign national and third individual charged as part of an ongoing investigation into price fixing by the Department of Justice that has involved Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Korean Air Lines, Martinair, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Qantas and SAS. All nine airlines have pleaded guilty to price fixing and have collectively paid fines of US$1.2bn.

“The cost of shipping products in and out of the United States is a critical component of our economy and a price that every American business and consumer bears,” said US anti-trust official Scott Hammond.

In August 2007, British Airways pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay US$300 million for conspiring to fix cargo rates for international air shipments and conspiring to fix passenger fuel surcharges for long-haul flights.
Several senior BA executives resigned from the company after the price-fixing deal became public.