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From Antitrust Law Daily, October 19, 2017

Eighth electrolytic capacitor manufacturer charged in U.S. price fixing probe

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

More than two years after a former executive of Nippon Chemi-Con Corporation was indicted for allegedly conspiring to fix prices of electrolytic capacitors, a grand jury in the federal district court in San Francisco has charged the Japan-based electrolytic capacitor manufacturer for its alleged role in the conspiracy. Late Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced the one-count indictmentagainst Nippon Chemi-Con. The company was charged with participating in the conspiracy from September 1997 until January 2014 (U.S. v. Nippon Chemi-Con Corp., Case 3:17-cr-00540-MMC).

Nippon Chemi-Con is the eighth company named in the probe that was first officially reported by the Justice Department in September 2015 with a similar charge against Japanese capacitor manufacturer NEC Tokin Corporation. At that time, NEC Token agreed to plead guilty and pay a $13.8 million criminal fine. The other six companies charged in the investigation also agreed to plead guilty.

The first charge in the investigation made public to date came in March 2015. A grand jury indicted Takuro Isawa, a former Global Sales General Manager for Nippon Chemi-Con. That charge was filed under seal, and the seal was not lifted until 2016. Three current Nippon Chemi-Con executives also have been charged. A total of 10 industry executives have been charged. An executive of Matsuo Electric Co. Limited was the first individual to agree to plead guilty in the probe in February of this year.

According to the latest one-count felony charge, Nippon Chemi-Con carried out the conspiracy by agreeing with co-conspirators to fix prices of electrolytic capacitors during meetings and other communications. Capacitors were then sold in accordance with these agreements. As part of the conspiracy, Nippon Chemi-Con and its co-conspirators took steps to conceal the conspiracy, including the use of code names and providing misleading justifications for prices and bids submitted to customers in order to cover up their collusive conduct, the Justice Department said.

Capacitors, also known as condensers, are a fundamental component of electrical circuits and are used primarily to store and regulate electrical current. Electrolytic capacitors, including aluminum and tantalum types, are a major sub-type of capacitors. These capacitors store and regulate electrical current in electronic products, including computers, televisions, car engine and airbag systems, home appliances, and office equipment.

"Today’s indictment affirms the Antitrust Division’s commitment to holding companies accountable for conspiring to cheat American consumers," said Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, in announcing the case. "The Division will prosecute companies—no matter where they are located—that violate U.S. antitrust laws."

Companies: Nippon Chemi-Con Corp.

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