Two Days On The Hot Seat

Glen Hiner called it "a watershed event for me." On Nov. 28-29, more than two years after charges surfaced that General Electric had tried to fix industrial-diamond prices with rival De Beers, Hiner, ex-head of GE Plastics and now CEO of Owens-Corning Fiberglas, gave his testimony: The allegations, first brought by fired GE diamond chief and Hiner subordinate Edward Russell, are "fantasy."

Hiner isn't charged in the antitrust case, but the Justice Dept. argues that he set the stage for a conspiracy by meeting with DeBeers officials in 1989 and 1991. Hiner said the meetings were legitimate discussions about business practices by a DeBeers distributor and about a possible technology exchange. Sometimes chuckling, sometimes testy, Hiner said there was no talk of pricing.

It wasn't an easy two days for the defense witness. The U.S. raised the notion that Hiner left GE in 1992 involuntarily; he denies it. GE backs Hiner. The company has moved for an early acquittal, but unless the judge approves, the jury will decide.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.