Tuesday, February 3, 2015

K-Line Exec Pleads Guilty to Price Fixing

By Mark Edward Nero

An executive with Japan-based Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (K-Line) has pled guilty and been sentenced to 18 months in a US prison for his involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices, the US Department of Justice announced Jan. 30.

Also among the charges to which Hiroshige Tanioka pled guilty was rigging 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.

According to the one-count felony charge filed in US District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore, Tanioka, who was at various times an assistant manager, team leader and general manager in K-Line’s car carrier division, conspired to allocate customers and routes, rig bids and fix prices for the sale of international ocean shipments of roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere.

Roll-on/roll-off cargo (ro/ro) is non-containerized cargo that can be both rolled onto and off an ocean-going vessel. Examples include cars, trucks and construction and agricultural equipment. Tanioka participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as April 1998 until at least April 2012, according to the Justice Dept.

“For more than a decade this conspiracy has raised the cost of importing cars and trucks into the United States,” Bill Baer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, said in a Jan. 30 statement. “Today’s sentencing is a first step in our continuing efforts to ensure that the executives responsible for this misconduct are held accountable.”

The sentence was the first to be imposed against an individual in the division’s ocean shipping investigation but previously, three corporations had agreed to plead guilty and to pay criminal fines totaling more than $136 million, including Tanioka’s employer K-Line, which was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $67.7 million in November 2014.

Tanioka was sentenced to serve an 18-month prison term and pay a $20,000 criminal fine for his participation in the conspiracy.