18 Jul NYK pleads guilty to ro-ro price fixing in Australia
NYK Line’s roll-on, roll-off cargo price-fixing woes continued Monday as the company pleaded guilty to Australian Federal Court for forming a criminal cartel.
The Australian plea makes NYK the second major car carrier to plead guilty and agree to pay a fine for antitrust violation in many weeks worldwide after Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics agreed to pay $98 million to the U.S. Justice Department for fixing ro-ro pricing to and from the Port of Baltimore.
NYK in January was named as the subject of a shipper class action complaint for shipping act violations in the U.S. tied to price fixing, and several NYK executives have been jailed in connection with the scandal.
The plea came after an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into fixing the price of for transporting vehicles — including cars, trucks and buses — to Australia between July 2009 and September 2012, according to the ACCC.
The charge is the first under the criminal cartel provision of the Competition and Consumer Act, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
For corporations, the maximum fine for each criminal cartel offense will be the greater of 10 million Australian dollars ($760,000) or three times the total benefits that have been obtained and are reasonably attributable to the commission of the crime. If the total value of the benefits cannot be determined, the fine will be 10 percent of the corporation’s annual turnover connected with Australia.
The ACCC is now investigating other alleged cartel participants.
NYK Australia cooperated fully with the ACCC during the investigation, but the company did not make any further comment as the matter is still before the courts, the NYK Australia said.
The Japanese carrier is also facing an investigation related to the deaths of two crew on the Sage Sagittarius coal carrier as the ship made its way from Japan to Newcastle, Australia.
Susumu Tanaka, a former manager, deputy general manager and general manager in NYK’s car carrier division, in U.S. court in January pleaded guilty to his involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers and rig bids of international shipping serves for ro-ro cargo, such as vehicles to and from the United States. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay a $20,000 criminal fine. Tanaka was the latest of a number of executives to face punishment for ro-ro antitrust actions.
NYK is also one of 14 liner shipping companies that have changed their container pricing practices in Europe after a European Commission antitrust probe.