Japanese firm admits to price-fixing
Washington — A Japanese shipping firm agreed Thursday to plead guilty to price-fixing and bid-rigging in the transportation of cars and trucks. It will pay nearly $68 million in fines, making it the latest company snared by the Justice Department's wide-ranging investigation into collusion in the auto sector.
Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., or K-Line, agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $67.7 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers and rig bids of international ocean shipping services for cars and trucks to and from the United States.
The actions took place from February 1997 or earlier until at least September 2012. K-Line has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department's antitrust investigation.
"Our efforts exposed a long-running global conspiracy that operated globally, affecting the shipping costs of staggering numbers of cars, into and out of the Port of Baltimore, and other ports in the United States and across the globe," said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division.
K-Line and other firms agreed to refrain from bidding against one another and exchanging customer pricing information. The companies then charged rates in accordance with those agreements for international ocean shipping services for cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere at higher prices.
Earlier this month, a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted seven executives at two Japanese auto parts companies in the latest round of the government's wide-ranging price fixing and bid-rigging probe.
The Justice Department said the Mitsubishi Electric parts were sold to Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co, Chrysler Group LLC, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (the parent of Subaru), Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. in the United States and around the world. They were also accused of conspiring to obstruct justice by destroying documents and trying to persuade others to destroy evidence.
Hitachi sold parts to Ford, GM, Nissan, Toyota and Honda.
To date, 43 individuals have been charged in the government's investigation into price-fixing and bid-rigging in the auto parts industry. Of those, 26 have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to serve prison terms ranging from a year and one day to two years. Additionally, 28 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.4 billion in fines.