Was Huntsman Involved in His Family Firm's Price-Fixing Case?

| Wed Jun. 15, 2011 1:00 PM EDT

In the early going, Jon Huntsman's soon-to-be-official presidential campaign has been characterized chiefly by a couple notable no-shows: his decisions not to compete in the uber-conservative Iowa caucus or take part in Monday's GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire.

But despite his best efforts to sidestep scrutiny, the opposition research squad at American Bridge 21st Century—a new Democratic political action group, which was profiled by Andy Kroll last month—has uncovered this gem: Huntsman International—a multinational plastics company founded by Huntsman's father—recently agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that the it broke antitrust laws by fixing the price of urethane chemicals from 1999 to 2004. The suit was filed in by several of Huntsman's competitors, reports the Associated Press.

Officials at Huntsman insist the company didn't do anything wrong. But they've still agreed to pay $33 million "to avoid the substantial burdens and uncertainties inherent in complex business litigation," Huntsman vice president Gary Chapman told the AP.

Jon Huntsman was a top executive at his family firm, serving as vice chairman of the company's board, among other roles, during five of the six years covered in the suit. Nevertheless, Chapman says that the Utah governor and recently ex-ambassador to China "has not been involved in the lawsuit in any way." And Huntsman's campaign says he had no knowledge of the settlement.

For a corporate titan like Huntsman International (especially one involved in processing chemicals), revelations about lawsuits and other dirty laundry aren't a big surprise. And this lawsuit obviously begs the question of what other, potentially damaging corporate skeletons Jon Huntsman might have stashed away.