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.