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British agency accuses staffing firms

October 21 2008

The United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading raised allegations of price fixing and illegal collective boycott against eight staffing firms that provide construction staffing in that country. The exact nature of the alleged legal breaches is confidential at this point, but the alleged incidents took place between late 2004 and early 2006.

Firms named by the office include: Beresford Blake Thomas Ltd. and Hill McGlynn Associates Ltd. (both formerly division of Vedior NV and now owned by Randstad Holding NV following the merger of the firms); AndersElite Ltd., a division of CDI Corp. (NYSE: CDI); Hays Specialist Recruitment Ltd, a division of Hays PLC, one of the U.K.'s largest staffing firms; Eden Brown Ltd; Fusion People Ltd.; Henry Recruitment Ltd.; and A Warwick Associates.

The office issued a statement of objections against the firms. However, the document is not the final decision, and the companies will have an opportunity to present their sides.

"If we find evidence of anti-competitive activity we will use the appropriate powers to punish the companies involved," said John Fingleton, chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading. "If proven, the alleged practices in this case would amount to a serious breach of the law."

Randstad said it will cooperate with the office, and that it knew about the investigation prior to its merger with Vedior.

"Randstad takes all matters of business conduct and ethics very seriously," Randstad said in a statement. "Its code of conduct and integrity code are implemented throughout the group of companies, including policies on competition compliance."

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