Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Third K-Line Exec Pleads Guilty to Price Fixing

By Mark Edward Nero

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

The DOJ said on March 26 that Toru Otoda, who was a general manager in K-Line’s car carrier division, has admitted that he 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.

Otoda participated in the conspiracy from about November 2010 until at least September 2012, according to the DOJ. He was charged with a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for an individual.

Under a plea agreement accepted by the court March 26, Otoda will also pay a $20,000 criminal fine for his participation in the conspiracy in addition to his 18-month prison term.

In February, former K-Line exec Takashi Yamaguchi pled guilty to price fixing charges and in January another executive, Hiroshige Tanioka, did the same.

All three received the same sentence: steep fine and a year-and-a-half imprisonment. Their former employer, K-Line, was sentenced in November 2014 to pay a criminal fine of $67.7 million.

The plea agreements were the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the international roll-on, roll-off ocean shipping industry.