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One of the nation's largest dairy companies, Borden Inc., has agreed to pay $8 million to settle new federal charges that it conspired to rig bids in the sale of milk to public schools and other institutional clients.

Borden this month agreed to pay $7.5 million in fines and penalties and $500,000 on a government civil claim after being charged by the U.S. Justice Department with five felony counts of conspiring to rig bids in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The settlement was reached on the same day the Justice Department formally charged the company with rigging bids in the sale of milk to schools, hospitals, a university, and other institutional clients in Texas between 1964 and 1990.

The Justice Department this month also charged Preston Dairy Inc. of Texas and the Maola Milk and Ice Cream Company of North Carolina of rigging bids in the sale of milk to public schools.

The cases are part of a nationwide investigation into bid-rigging in the dairy industry that has led the Justice Department to file 83 criminal cases against 47 companies. Investigations by 34 grand juries in 23 states continue.

A number of state attorneys general have been conducting similar investigations.

Borden had previously pleaded guilty to rigging bids in the sale of milk in Florida during the late 1970's and 1980's and paid a $5.5 million fine. The company, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, is among more than 35 corporations and 40 individuals that had agreed, before this month's settlement, to pay more than $35 million in fines and penalties for antitrust violations.

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