WASHINGTON–Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), a Japanese corporation, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $59.4 million criminal fine for its involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers, and rig bids of international ocean shipping services for roll-on, roll-off cargo, such as cars and trucks, to and from the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore, NYK conspired to suppress and eliminate competition by allocating customers and routes, rigging bids and fixing prices for the sale of international ocean shipments of roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere, including the Port of Baltimore. NYK participated in the conspiracy from at least February 1997 until at least September 2012. NYK has agreed to cooperate with the Department’s ongoing antitrust investigation. The plea agreement is subject to court approval. NYK is the third company to agree to plead guilty in this investigation, bringing the total agreed-upon fines to over $135 million.
Roll-on, roll-off cargo is non-containerized cargo that can be both rolled onto and rolled off of an ocean-going vessel. Examples of this cargo include new and used cars and trucks and construction and agricultural equipment.
“This is another step in the effort to restore competition in the ocean shipping industry to the benefit of U.S. consumers,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Including today’s charges, three companies have now agreed to plead guilty to participating in this long-running conspiracy. We are not done. Our investigation is ongoing.”
According to the charge, NYK and its co-conspirators conspired by agreeing on prices, allocating customers, agreeing to refrain from bidding against one another and exchanging customer pricing information. The department said the companies then charged fees in accordance with those agreements for international ocean shipping services for certain roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere at collusive and non-competitive prices.
NYK is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.