K-Line Fined for Violation of US Ro-Ro Antitrust Laws

K-Line Guilty of Violation of US Ro-Ro Antitrust Laws

Japanese corporation Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. (K-Line) agreed to pay a fine of USD 67.7 million having plead guilty of violating U.S. antitrust laws. 

The charges were raised by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the sale of ocean shipping services for roll-on, roll-off cargo.  

K-Line said that it had cooperated fully with the DOJ’s investigation and would continue to do so.

“K-Line takes this matter seriously and has taken steps to further strengthen its compliance and training programs to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations,” the company said in a statement.

According to the ruling of the US Department of Justice:

K-Line Guilty of Violation of US Ro-Ro Antitrust Laws1” K-Line 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.  K-Line participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as February 1997 until at least September 2012.”

“Our efforts exposed a long-running global conspiracy that operated globally, affecting the shipping costs of staggering numbers of cars, into and out of the Port of Baltimore, and other ports in the United States and across the globe.  Today’s 8September 26th) announcement demonstrates our continuing resolve to bring the members of this conspiracy to justice, ” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  

“We are continuing our efforts to ensure that both the corporations and individuals involved in this cartel are held accountable for their acts and the harm they inflicted on American consumers.”

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According to the charge, K-Line and its co-conspirators conspired by, among other things, agreeing – during meetings and communications – on prices, allocating customers, agreeing to refrain from bidding against one another and exchanging customer pricing information.  The department said the companies then charged rates 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.

K-Line is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a USD 100 million criminal fine for corporations.  The department said the maximum fine might 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.

The company said it would  record 7,023 million yen as an extraordinary loss in the second quarter of the consolidated cumulative term of the fiscal year ending March 2015. 

Press Release, September 29, 2014