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TEXT OF STORY
Kai Ryssdal: There is nothing like grabbing a nice cold beer out of a tub of ice on a hot summer afternoon, but there is a chance you’ve been paying too much to cool your suds.
Believe it or not, those bags you buy at the convenience store are worth close to $2 billion a year and there are new details coming to light in a federal ice price-fixing investigation.
Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.
Amy Scott: When you buy a bag of ice at your local supermarket, it likely came from one of three companies: Arctic Glacier, Home City Ice or Reddy Ice.
Here I am at the Food Emporium, a Manhattan grocery store, and here we are, sure enough: Arctic Glacier from Manitoba, Canada.
Dozens of lawsuits accuse all three companies of agreeing to divvy up the ice market and stay out of each other’s territories. Only one has been charged with criminal wrongdoing. Home City Ice of Cincinnati pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.
Attorney Barry Barnett represents stores that want their money back.
Barry Barnett: The purpose of an agreement like that is to make more money because it limits the output that’s available for people. The demand stays the same, so the price goes up.
One man helping authorities investigate is now speaking out. Former Arctic Glacier employee Martin McNulty says when he objected to the conspiracy, he was essentially blackballed.
Martin McNulty: I was told pretty quickly that there was an allocation relationship between Arctic Glacier as well as Home City and Reddy Ice and that if I didn’t want to be a part of it, that there was really nowhere else to go, that I would not be hired by those other ice companies.
McNulty is now suing Arctic Glacier for backpay and other damages. The company didn’t return calls today, but has said it’s cooperating with authorities. The Justice Department would only say its investigation is ongoing.
In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
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