TALLAHASSEE – Attorney General Charlie Crist today announced that his
office has reached a settlement with the former owner of Tate Enterprises,Inc., resolving allegations of involvement in a gasoline price fixing scheme. Robert Tate must pay $100,000 in civil fines, the statutory maximum amount for an individual, and must refrain from any activity that would result in non-competitive gas pricing anywhere in Florida.
Crist’s office sued Tate and his former business, Tate Enterprises,
in May after uncovering evidence of gasoline price fixing in Northwest
Florida. The investigation was launched in July 2005 after Crist’s office
received gas price gouging complaints in the wake of Hurricane Dennis.
Investigators alleged that when Tate sold a gasoline station to another
retailer, he required as a condition of the sale that the new owner match
the prices of gasoline at the other Crestview stations still owned by Tate Enterprises. According to the antitrust lawsuit, when the new owner lowered prices at his station, Tate called to remind him of their agreement and insisted that he raise the prices. The owner agreed and prices were raised at the station.
“At a time when Floridians were paying incredibly high prices for
gasoline, some were making the situation even worse,” said Crist. “This
settlement sends the message that this type of behavior will not be allowed to continue.”
The antitrust lawsuit alleged that the price-fixing conspiracies
violated Florida’s antitrust laws and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair
Trade Practices Act. As a condition of the settlement, Tate will not engage in any effort to manipulate gasoline prices among competitors, nor will he seek to coordinate prices at competing stations. He must also reimburse the taxpayers an additional $40,000 for the costs of the investigation and litigation. Tate will continue to cooperate with Crist’s ongoing litigation against other defendants allegedly involved in retail gasoline price fixing schemes in Northwest Florida. Two other individuals, including the purchaser of Tate’s station, previously settled allegations in the case.
A copy of the settlement with Tate is available at: