Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) has extricated itself from the long-running sweetener price-fixing lawsuit. The company announced yesterday that it has reached a US$400m settlement with its accusers.

The proposed settlement, which is subject to court approval, stems from a lawsuit filed by several food and beverage companies, including Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo, who accused ADM of fixing prices of high-fructose corn syrup, a sugar substitute, with other manufacturers in the early 1990s.

In a statement, ADM chairman and chief executive G. Allen Andreas said: "In light of the potential exposure inherent in litigation, the board of directors concluded that it was in the best interests of the company to dispose of this matter."

The price fixing case was scheduled for a jury trial on 7 September. ADM said that the plaintiffs sought damages of $1.6 billion, an amount that could be tripled in the event of a finding of liability.

In March this year, Cargill Inc. stepped out of the lawsuit by offering a $24m settlement to the plaintiffs. Now that ADM has pulled out, this leaves A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. alone to defend the accusations.