The Federal Court of Australia has convicted Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) of criminal cartel conduct and ordered it to pay a fine of $25 million relating to the transportation of motor vehicles to Australia between 2009 and 2012.
The fine is the second-highest fine ever imposed by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). The judgment also marks the first successful prosecution under the criminal cartel provisions of the country’s Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA).
Following an extensive investigation by the ACCC, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions charged NYK with “giving effect to cartel provisions in an arrangement or understanding with other shipping lines” over the transportation of vehicles to Australia between 2009 and 2012, the ACCC said in a statement.
“The cartel operated from at least February 1997 and affected vehicles transported to Australia by NYK and other shipping lines from locations in Asia, the US and Europe on behalf of major car manufacturers including Nissan, Suzuki, Honda, Toyota and Mazda,” The ACCC said.
NYK entered a guilty plea to the charges on July 18, 2016 in Federal Court. The ACCC said NYK cooperated throughout the ACCC’s investigation, helping reduce the fine imposed on the company. Under one scenario, NYK could have faced a maximum penalty of $100 million for the criminal conduct.
“The Australian community relies heavily on imported vehicles, so a longstanding cartel in relation to the transportation of those vehicles to Australia was of significant concern,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said of the Court’s decision. “The NYK fine is also the second largest ever imposed under the Competition and Consumer Act, and incorporated a significant discount for NYK’s plea and cooperation,” Sims said.
Justice Wigney, who presided over the case, said the fine “incorporates a global discount of 50% for NYK’s early plea of guilty and past and future assistance and cooperation, together with the contrition inherent in the early plea and cooperation: meaning that but for the early plea and past and future cooperation, the fine would have been $50 million”.
“The sentence imposed on NYK by the Federal Court today sends a strong warning to the industry and the business community at large,” added Sims.
Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K-Line), another Japanese shipping company, is also being investigated and was charged in November in relation to the case. That investigation is ongoing, the ACCC said.