WASHINGTON – Mitsubishi Corp. has agreed to pay a $134 million fine for its role in an international price-fixing cartel for graphite electrodes, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.
The fine, approved by U.S. District Judge Marvin Katz in Philadelphia, is the second-highest imposed in a graphite electrodes investigation and the fourth-largest ever imposed in an antitrust case, the department said.
A federal district court jury convicted the giant trading house in February of aiding and abetting a conspiracy among major graphite electrodes makers to fix prices in the United States and elsewhere.
Mitsubishi began the practice at least as early as March 1992 and continued until at least June 1997, according to the indictment.
Mitsubishi agreed April 19 with the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division to pay the $134 million.
The company waived its right to appeal as part of the agreement, but it did not admit to participating in the price-fixing.
In a prepared statement, Mitsubishi said its decision to pay the fine does not imply any change in its position that it was not involved in price-fixing.
Mitsubishi owned 50 percent of UCAR International, the world’s largest graphite electrode producer, from February 1991 to January 1995.
The indictment charged that Mitsubishi encouraged UCAR to meet with competitors and agree to fix, maintain and stabilize graphite electrode prices.
Mitsubishi also arranged meetings and communications between UCAR and competitors, according to the indictment.
Mitsubishi was charged with hiding the conspiracy from customers and others to allow it to continue.
The company profited from the cartel both as a trader, selling the price-fixed electrodes on behalf of some of the conspirators, and as the owner of half of UCAR, according to the indictment.
“The prosecution of Mitsubishi and this $134 million fine should send a strong deterrent message to those who participate in or knowingly aid international cartels that increase prices for American businesses and customers,” said John Nannes, acting assistant attorney in charge of antitrust affairs.
Graphite electrodes are large columns that are used in the electric arc furnaces of steel mills.
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