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From Antitrust Law Daily, November 3, 2016

U.S. charges five more execs in capacitor price fixing probe

By Greg Hammond, J.D.

A total of six executives have now been charged with conspiring to fix prices of electrolytic capacitors sold to customers in the United States, as a result of a superseding indictment filed yesterday in the federal district court in San Francisco. The Department of Justice Antitrust Division originally filed a charge in March 2015 under seal against Takuro Isawa, but the superseding indictment names five additional executives as defendants (U.S. v. Date, Case No. 15-CR-0163-JD).

Electrolytic capacitors are components of electrical circuits that are used to store and regulate electrical current in various electronic products, such as computers, home appliances, office equipment, televisions, and vehicle engine and airbag systems. The superseding indictment alleges that the six executives knowingly entered into and engaged in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing prices and rigging bids for electrolytic capacitors.

The executives allegedly participated in meetings to discuss prices and bids for electrolytic capacitors; agreed during meetings and conversations to fix the prices and rig bids of electrolytic capacitors; negotiated prices and issued price announcements; manufactured electrolytic capacitors in accordance with those agreements; sold and distributed electrolytic capacitors at the collusive, noncompetitive prices and bids; collected and exchanged information on prices, bids, sales, supply, and demand; authorized the participation of subordinate employees in the conspiracy; and took steps to conceal the conspiracy.

"The Antitrust Division will not hesitate to charge foreign nationals who participate in conspiracies that cheat American consumers," stated Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Antitrust Division, in announcing the charges. "These executives participated in a long-running conspiracy to fix the prices of electrolytic capacitors, which are necessary components in scores of electronic products purchased by American consumers."

The indictment names as defendants: (1) Tomohide Date, who was a manager at NEC TOKIN Corp.; (2) Satoru Miyashita; (3) Yasutoshi Ohno; (4) Masanobu Shiozaki; (5) Kiyoaki Shirotori; and (6) Takuro Isawa.

To date, five companies and six individuals have been charged for allegedly participating in the same worldwide conspiracy. Most recently, Rubycon Corp. agreed to pay a $12 million fine for its role in the conspiracy. NEC TOKIN Corp. and Hitachi Chemical Co. Ltd. also pleaded guilty to the Justice Department’s charges, agreeing to pay criminal fines of $13.8 million and $3.8 million, respectively. Indictments were also filed against Elna Co., Ltd. and Holy Stone Holdings Co., Ltd.

Companies: Rubycon Corp.; NEC TOKIN Corp.; Hitachi Chemical Co. Ltd.; Elna Co., Ltd.; Holy Stone Holdings Co., Ltd.

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