On September 27, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Hoegh Autoliners AS, a Norwegian shipping company, plead guilty in a scheme with four other companies to fix prices on shipping. One of the companies who say they got duped, to the tune of an untold sum of money? Fiat Chrysler, who has now filed a complaint over the scheme to the U.S. Maritime Commission, seeking “reparations” from the companies, according to Reuters.
According to FCA’s complaint, the companies’ scheme has been going on since at least 1997, and in that time FCA has paid hundreds of millions of dollars for shipping services from them, like the shipping of cars and trucks from the U.S. to ports across the world.
From the complaint:
Respondents and their co-conspirators have secretly agreed to allocate customers and routes, rig bids, restrict capacity, and otherwise raise, fix, stabilize, or maintain prices for roll on, roll off cargo services for shipments to and from the United States and elsewhere in the world. Respondents and their coconspirators’ secret agreements to suppress competition were never filed with the Federal Maritime Commission. As a result of Respondents and their co-conspirators’ secret agreements and Shipping Act violations, FCA paid higher prices for roll on, roll off cargo services than it would have in a competitive market.
In 2012, U.S. investigators first alleged the price-fixing scheme. Eventually all five companies plead guilty or, in Hoegh’s case, agree to plead guilty charges tied to the scheme. FCA says $255 million has been paid in fines from the companies so far to settle federal claims—but none to the victims, something the complaint is attempting to change.
More from the complaint:
Since 1997, FCA has negotiated and entered into contracts and agreements with Respondents and their co-conspirators to purchase roll on, roll off cargo services for shipments to and from the United States and elsewhere in the world. Some of those contracts are still in effect today. The former and current contracts and agreements contained prices that were negotiated in an anti-competitive market and, therefore, artificially inflated and supracompetitive, as a direct result of Respondents and their co-conspirators’ illegal, secret, and unfiled agreements to allocate customers and routes, rig bids, restrict capacity, and otherwise raise, fix, stabilize, or maintain prices for roll on, roll off cargo services for shipments to and from the United States and elsewhere in the world. FCA has suffered and continues to suffer damages as a result of the Respondents and their co~conspirators’ violations of the Shipping Act and brings this action to recover reparations for the higher prices it paid...
FCA’s legal action is far from the first to arise from this case of price-fixing. A number of companies, including GM, filing lawsuits, while a host of auto and truck dealers have also filed complaints with the Maritime Commission, according to Reuters. Reached for comment, an FCA spokesman simply referred Jalopnik to the company’s complaint, which you can read in full here.