US Jails Third K-Line Exec for Price Fixing

An executive of Japan-based Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (K-Line) pleaded guilty on Thursday and was sentenced to 18 months in a U.S. prison for his involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices, the US Department of Justice informed.

According to the one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland in Baltimore on Jan. 22, 2015, Toru Otoda, who was a 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, including the Port of Baltimore.

Otoda participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as November 2010 until at least September 2012, the Justice Department said.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, Otoda was also sentenced to pay a $20,000 criminal fine for his participation in the conspiracy.  In addition, Otoda has agreed to assist the department in its ongoing investigation into the ocean shipping industry.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division said that the investigation will continue aiming to prosecute the executives and the companies involved in the matter.

“Price fixing and bid rigging are crimes most people don’t see, but they have a direct impact on everyone’s wallet,” said Special Agent in Charge Steve Vogt of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office.  “Our goal in the FBI is to expose the back room deals and secret handshakes, and to stop the culture in some businesses that allows these crimes to take place.”

Today’s sentence is the fourth against an individual in the division’s ocean shipping investigation, and the third against an individual from K-Line.