Two Shipping Companies Fined $3.4 Million for Price Fixing
The Department of Justice announced March 7 that two ocean shipping companies have agreed to pay a combined fine of $3.4 million (one company paid $1.9 million and the other $1.5 million) to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by fixing the price of government cargo transportation contracts between the continental United States and Puerto Rico. The U.S. government alleged that former executives of these two ocean shippers used personal email accounts to communicate confidential bidding information, thereby enabling each of the shippers to know the transportation rates that its competitor intended to submit to federal agencies for specific routes. This information allowed the shippers to allocate specific routes between themselves at predetermined rates. Among the contracts affected were U.S. Postal Service contracts to transport mail and U.S. Department of Agriculture contracts to ship food. Both shipping companies previously pleaded guilty in related criminal proceedings to anticompetitive conduct in violation of the Sherman Act.