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US authorities continue investigation into collusion among Box Club members

US authorities continue investigation into collusion among Box Club members

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Almost six months after US authorities raided a Box Club meeting in San Francisco there is no indication of how the linked investigation is progressing on suspected collusion among the world’s leading containerlines.

The Department of Justice, one of the agencies involved, is following protocol by declining to comment on a probe that is in progress.

Asked if there were any developments to report on the investigation, Mark Abueg of the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs told Splash: “I have to decline to comment.” But he did say: “There is no set time for when such an investigation should end.”

When that time arrives the findings, recommendations and/or actions will be made public, Abueg confirmed.

The raid, conducted in March, involved officials of the FBI and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. They delivered subpoenas to representatives of the major shipping lines, ordering them to testify about industry practices.

Companies that confirmed being given subpoenas include Maersk, MSC, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, OOCL and CMA CGM.

The Box Club is an informal name for the International Council of Containership Operators. It includes the CEOs of all the major containerlines and meets twice a year at varying locations.

US antitrust lawyers usually sit in on the meetings, wherever they are held.

Even so, antitrust authorities in the US are keenly watching the industry for potential violations, especially in the wake of recent consolidation and alliance shuffles.

Some containerlines involved in discussion agreements have been granted limited exemptions from US antitrust regulations. The exemptions allow for agreements on voluntary rate guidelines but do not tolerate price fixing.

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Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew Craig-Bennett
    September 6, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    I am sure that the Box Club is guilty of colluding on the dimensions of containers, the specifications of corner castings and twist locks and how to stack the blighters twelve high.

    Whilst they are undoubtedly “of the same trade”, and they have undoubtedly been “meeting together”, If they have been engaged “in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices” they haven’t been very good at it!