WASHINGTON, DC: July 14, 2016. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has fined Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) US$98.9 million for price-fixing RORO ocean cargo to and from Baltimore and other locations in the United States.
The WWL case follows earlier successful prosecutions of CSAV, K-Line and NYK and subsequent fines of over US$230 million. In addition eight executives, including former NYK Line general manager Susumu Tanaka, have pleaded guilty to their involvement and sentenced to prison terms. The DoJ said the other four executives have been indicted, but remain fugitives.
According to the one-count felony charge, WWL conspired with other RORO shipping lines from February 2000 to September 2012 to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers.
“WWL and its co-conspirators cheated their customers for years by fixing the prices of ocean shipping services for cars, trucks, and other cargo essential to our nation’s economy,” said principal deputy assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
“It is with great regret that I conclude that our policies were not always followed as they should have been,” responded Håkan Larsson, chairman of the board of WWL and member of the EUKOR board. “We have supported this investigation throughout, and whilst it is a sad day, I am pleased to have reached this settlement with the DoJ. We will continue our work to meet the highest ethical standards. It is what we owe our customers as well as ourselves.”
In addition to the fine, WWL has agreed to cooperate with the Department’s ongoing antitrust investigation into RORO price fixing.
Last December, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) fined Seoul-based EUKOR US$44 million for anti-competitive behavior in the Chinese market.
Craig Jasienski, CEO and president of EUKOR commented at the time: “This is a regrettable and unfortunate situation. We are a proponent of fair and open competition and must adhere to the applicable laws in our operation…We will do everything possible to avoid similar situations going forward.”
EUKOR shareholders are Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors (20 percent), Wilh.Wilhelmsen (40 percent), and Wallenius Lines (40 percent).