US steps up roro price fixing indictments

US steps up roro price fixing indictments

An indictment of three shipping executives was unsealed in a US court in Baltimore yesterday. Anders Boman, Arild Iversen, and Kai Kraass have been charged with participating in a long-running conspiracy to allocate certain customers and routes, rig bids, and fix prices for the sale of international ocean shipments of roro cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere, including the Port of Baltimore. A federal grand jury returned the indictment in November 2016.

Boman, a citizen of Sweden, and Iversen, a Norwegian citizen, are former executives of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL). Kraass, a German citizen, is a current WWL executive. Including the charges announced today, eleven executives have been charged in the investigation to date. Four have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to serve prison terms. Others remain “international fugitives”, according to a release from the Department of Justice.

WWL has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to pay a $98.9m fine. Three other companies have also pleaded guilty, resulting in total collective criminal fines of more than $230m.

The indictment alleges that Boman, Iversen, and Kraass conspired with their competitors to allocate certain customers and routes for the shipment of cars and trucks, as well as construction and agricultural equipment. The defendants accomplished their scheme by, among other things, attending meetings in Baltimore County and elsewhere during which they agreed not to compete against each other, by refraining from bidding or by agreeing on the prices they would bid for certain customers and routes. In addition, Boman, Iversen, and Kraass agreed with competitors to fix, stabilise, and maintain rates charged to customers of international ocean shipping services.

“The indictment unsealed today is yet another step in the division’s efforts to restore competition in the shipping industry,” said acting assistant attorney general Andrew Finch of the Justice

Department’s antitrust division. “WWL has pleaded guilty. Now we are working to ensure that its executives who conspired to suppress competition at the expense of American consumers will be held accountable.”

“These indictments are the continuation of a long-term effort by the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office to secure our nation’s economy against collusion in the shipping industry, to ensure competition in the market place and to protect US companies from these deceptive practices,” said special agent in charge Gordon Johnson.

The federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the international roro industry continues.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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