NYK Manager Sentenced to Prison Over Price Fixing Conspiracy

File photo of NYK car carrier. Creative Commons
File photo of NYK car carrier. Creative Commons

An employee of Japan-based Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in a U.S. prison for his involvement in a price fixing conspiracy for Ro-Ro shipping services to and from the United States.

According to the one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore back in January, Susumu Tanaka, who was a manager, deputy general manager and general manager in NYK’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. Tanaka participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as April 2004 until at least September 2012.

Under the plea agreement, Tanaka was sentenced to serve a 15-month prison term and pay a $20,000 criminal fine for his participation in the conspiracy. Tanaka has also agreed to assist the Justice Department in its ongoing investigation into the ocean shipping industry.

“Today’s sentence is another step toward bringing to justice the perpetrators of this long-running cartel and restoring competition to the ocean shipping industry,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division. “But this investigation is far from over. We are continuing our efforts to hold accountable the companies and executives who seek to maximize profits through illegal, anticompetitive means.”

Tanaka was charged with a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for an individual. The maximum fine may also 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 sentence is the third against an individual in the division’s ocean shipping investigation, and the first against an individual from NYK. Three corporations have agreed to plead guilty and to pay criminal fines totaling more than $136 million, including NYK, which has agreed to pay a criminal fine of $59.4 million, pending court approval.