The Antitrust Division has announced that three more companies have agreed to plead guilty in the electrolytic capacitor investigation. According to a DOJ press release of August 22, (here) Rubycon Corp, Elna Co, and Holy Stone Holdings Co, have agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices of electrolytic capacitors sold in the United States and elsewhere. Rubycon and Elna (Japanese companies) and Holy Stone (Taipei based) will each plead guilty to a single count of price-fixing. The press release quotes Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division: “The Antitrust Division has now charged five companies and one individual for their participation in this international price-fixing conspiracy.”
There have been two previous corporate guilty pleas in the investigation. NEC TOKIN Corp. was sentenced to pay a fine of $13.8 million in January 2016, and Hitachi Chemical was sentenced to pay a fine of $3.8 million in June 2016. There has only been one individual charged. Takuro Isawa, a former Global Sales General Manager for an unidentified capacitor manufacturer, was indicted in 2015, but is a fugitive.
This is an interesting case from the outside looking in. First, the period of the alleged cartel is exceptionally long. The charging language in each case reads:
From at least as early as September 1997 and continuing until in or about January 2014….conspirators …..knowingly entered into and engaged in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing prices and rigging bids of certain electrolytic capacitors in the Untied States and elsewhere.