Last week, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) imposed its first fines in the worldwide auto parts investigation. Eight Japanese auto parts companies and four Japanese bearing makers were fined a cumulative total of just over $200 million. In a related development, Batman and Robin announced that they have directed Alfred to determine whether the Batmobile contains any of the price-rigged parts.
OK, maybe that is a little far-fetched, but the point is that cartel enforcement has clearly become a worldwide event. With China pulling up a seat at the table, the risks have never been higher for would be cartelists. “This sends a warning to companies engaging in global price-fixing that they should beware of China,” said Chen Danzhou, a lecturer specializing in anti-monopoly law at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. “The government is getting more aggressive as it tries to make a structural adjustment to the market.” (Bloomberg) China had also recently fined 6 companies from South Korea and Taiwan $56 million for participation in the LCD panel cartel.
The Antitrust Division coordinated the auto parts investigation with the Japanese Fair Trade Commission, the European Commission, Canadian Competition Bureau, Korean Fair Trade Commission, Mexican Federal Economic Competition Commission and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. What this usually means, at a minimum, is that the agencies coordinate timing of search warrants, dawn raids, inspections or wherever term is used to pay an unscheduled visit on businesses (and in some cases executives’ homes) to seize paper and electronic documents. The coordination minimizes the ability of subjects to clean house before the guests arrive. China did not participate it the auto parts coordination kickoff, but followed on as other nations brought cases. But, China is thought to have cooperated with the DOJ, European Union Japanese, Korean and Taiwan Fair Trade Commission, (JFTC, KFTC, TFTC, respectively) in launching the recent investigation of the global capacitors industry. [Read more…]