DETROIT (CN) – As summer heats up, the nation’s leading manufacturers of packaged ice face a federal whistleblower lawsuit accusing them of secretly agreeing not to compete in certain regions.
Martin McNulty, once a veteran ice salesman at Arctic Glacier Inc., filed an antitrust claim against his former employer, Reddy Ice Corp., Home City Ice Co. and three of their leading agents, alleging they engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy. When McNulty told Arctic Glacier’s vice president of sales, Keith Corbin, about anticompetitive back-scratching between Home City and Party Time, the lawsuit claims, Corbin revealed that Arctic Glacier had a similar deal with Home City.
“Pretty much Michigan is ours,” Corbin allegedly explained.
The arrangements prevent McNulty from aggressively expanding the geographic coverage of major accounts, including Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and Kroger, the lawsuit states.
McNulty says he was fired, despite his 14 successful years in the packaged ice industry, for refusing to participate in the illegal scheme and for disclosing the conspiracy to government authorities.
He claims the defendants then closed ranks to blacklist him from the industry. He says he has proof, in the form of a secretly recorded conversation he had with Joseph Riley, the president of Tropic Ice Co. McNulty agreed to wear the wire in order to help the FBI’s investigation.
Riley allegedly told McNulty that he was being “blackballed.”
The plaintiff seeks an award of maximum damages and civil penalties. He is represented by Andrew Paterson of Pleasant Ridge.