SANTIAGO, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Chilean forestry company CMPC and a subsidiary of Swedish-owned SCA colluded for at least a decade to control nearly 90 percent of the Chilean tissue paper market, the country's competitive practices regulator said on Wednesday.
The FNE said a Chilean antitrust court had accepted its filing against the companies, in which the FNE detailed how CMPC Tissue, a CMPC subsidiary, acted jointly with PISA, which was bought by SCA in 2012, to control market prices.
"Its gravity consists in both the amount of time and the immensity of the market that it affected," the FNE said in a statement.
The regulator asked the court to fine SCA $15.5 million, while CMPC will not be fined, as a reward for having admitted to anticompetitive conduct in March.
It said that the collusion scheme lasted from 2000 until at least December 2011, and affected the market for toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, and facial wipes. Combined sales for the two companies come to $400 million annually.
"The internal investigation brought by CMPC, which originated when we admitted wrongdoing (to the FNE), concluded that during a period of time, until approximately December 2011, executives of our Tissue subsidiary participated in coordination agreements with members of the competition," CMPC said in a statement.
CMPC added that it had fired the general manager of the unit involved as well as other executives, and said it had adopted measures to ensure similar conduct did not recur.
SCA could not be immediately reached for comment.
During its investigation, the FNE said it came up against a number of measures taken by executives that were meant to hide illegal conduct, such as the use of prepaid cell phones.
CMPC, one of the biggest companies in Chile, participates in the forestry and pulpwood business in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. (Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by David Gregorio)