The U.S. Justice Department said yesterday that it would not appeal the dismissal of price-fixing charges against Stolt-Nielsen SA and two former executives accused of conspiring to rig rates for transocean chemical shipments.

Last month's ruling by a federal judge in Philadelphia was a setback for the department's antitrust division. The court ruled that the government breached an agreement not to prosecute the company or the executives in return for cooperating with the department's investigation.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Kauffman rejected the antitrust division's argument that the case against Stolt could go forward because the company violated the terms of the agreement.

"While the division is disappointed with the ruling, it respects the role of the court in making the factual determinations that support the decision that Stolt-Nielsen, two of its subsidiaries, and two executives did not breach the conditional-leniency agreement," the Justice Department said in a statement.

The agency said it would continue to ensure that companies granted amnesty "adhere to all requirements to obtain leniency."

The case was widely watched in the business community because it was part of a U.S. Corporate Leniency Program that grants immunity to the first company providing information about others involved in international price-fixing.