• Kyodo

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Nippon Electrode Co., a component in the Nippon Light Metal Co. group, has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $450,000 fine for its role in an international conspiracy to fix the price of carbon cathode block, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.

Nippon Electrode, based in Kambara, Shizuoka Prefecture, was charged Monday in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia with conspiring with other companies to suppress and eliminate competition in the carbon cathode block industry between February 1996 and December 1997, the department said.

German company VAW Carbon GmbH also agreed to plead guilty to involvement in the price-fixing scheme. It will pay a $990,000 fine.

“This is another example of the Antitrust Division’s resolve to take action against violators of the U.S. antitrust laws that harm American businesses and consumers,” James Griffin, deputy assistant attorney general for the criminal enforcement program of the department’s Antitrust Division, said in a statement.

According to an official at Nippon Light Metal’s public relations department in Tokyo, “Nippon Electrode had insisted on the legitimacy of its practice, but decided to plea bargain as the company thought it the best way to resolve the issue as early as possible.”

The charge against Nippon Electrode carries a maximum fine of $10 million.

Because of its superior conductive properties, strength and resistance to heat and chemical reactions, carbon cathode block is commonly used in aluminum smelters and pots in the production of primary aluminum.

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