Susumu Tanaka, who held a number of managerial roles in NYK’s car carrier division, was sentenced last week to 15 months in a US prison. He follows two former executives from Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) – Hiroshige Tanioka and Takashi Yamaguchi – who received sentences of 18 months and 14 months respectively. Each executive has been prosecuted for their conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers and rig bids of international ocean shipping services for ro-ro cargo, including passenger vehicles and trucks, to and from the US and other global markets, according to the DoJ
A number of the world’s leading ro-ro providers, including NYK Line, Mitsui OSK Lines, K-Line, Eukor Car Carriers and WWL, are subject to an ongoing anti-trust investigation, which began in 2012. It followed suspicion of certain carriers being involved in a cartel to coordinate price hikes for transporting vehicles and other cargo from Japan to Europe, the US and other Asian markets.
As announced in January, NYK has agreed to pay a fine of $59.4m as part of a plea agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) following charges that it violated US anti-trust laws.
“Today’s sentence is another step toward bringing to justice the perpetrators of this long-running cartel and restoring competition to the ocean shipping industry,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general for the DoJ’s Antitrust Division. “But this investigation is far from over. We are continuing our efforts to hold accountable the companies and executives who seek to maximise profits through illegal, anti-competitive means.”
Tanaka was found to have participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as April 2004 until at least September 2012. Along with the K Line executives, he must pay a $20,000 criminal fine for his part in the conspiracy on top of the jail term. Each was charged with violation of the Sherman Act, which governs anti-competitive business activities.