Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Nippon Chemi-Con, a leading electrolytic capacitor manufacturer, citing a long-running conspiracy to fix, increase, maintain, and stabilize prices for those products sold in the United States and elsewhere.
Electrolytic capacitors store and regulate electrical current in a variety of electronic products, including computers, televisions, car engines and airbag systems, home appliances, and office equipment. Image courtesy: Nippon Chemi-Con
“[This] indictment affirms the Antitrust Division’s commitment to holding companies accountable for conspiring to cheat American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in a written statement. “The Division will prosecute companies—no matter where they are located—that violate U.S. antitrust laws.”
The eight-page, single count indictment, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, claims that Nippon Chemi-Con, based in Japan, “conspired to suppress and eliminate competition for electrolytic capacitors from as early as September 1997 until January 2014,” the statement said. “The charged combination and conspiracy consisted of a continuing agreement, understanding, and concert of action among the defendant and co-conspirators, the substantial terms of which were to fix prices and rig bids for electrolytic capacitors,” the indictment read.
The government points to a broad and deep trend of collusion amongst a number of capacitor makers. “The defendant and co-conspirators collected, exchanged, monitored, and discussed information on prices, bids, sales, supply, demand, shipping, and the production of electrolytic capacitors for the purpose of reaching agreements on prices and bids and monitoring and enforcing adherence to the collusive agreements reached,” the indictment said. Further, all the companies involved took clear steps to conceal the collusion. For example, the companies used code names and provided misleading justifications for prices and bids submitted to customers to minimize suspicion, the Department of Justice said.
This charge is part of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and various anticompetitive conduct in the electrolytic capacitors industry. Earlier this year, in July, Nichicon Corp. pled guilty for its part in the price fixing. The company said that it will plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices for electrolytic capacitors sold to customers in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today. “Nichicon conspired with others to suppress and eliminate competition for electrolytic capacitors from as early as November 2001 until December 2011,” the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division alleged. Nichicon pled guilty and agreed to pay a $42 million criminal fine, in addition to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
Nichicon and Nippon Chemi-Con are not alone, though. In all, the Department of Justice also charged eight companies (including Hitachi Chemical, NEC Tokin, Rubycon, Elna, Tomohide Date, and Holy Stone Holdings), as well as 10 individuals for participating in the price fixing. Included were three current Nippon Chemi-Con executives and one former executive of the company, including Takuro Isawa, Takeshi Matsuzaka, Yasutoshi Ohno, and Kaname Takahashi.