The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday ordered the Fair Trade Commission not to disclose information about bid-rigging cases involving five companies to residents in Tokyo and Yokohama who have sued the firms for damages.
The decision overrules a lower court ruling in October that gave the FTC authorization to disclose the information against the companies’ wishes. The residents were also given permission to access the information.
The five — Hitachi Zosen Corp., Takuma Co., NKK Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. — allegedly colluded repeatedly in bidding for contracts to construct garbage incinerators ordered by several local governments. They were urged by the FTC to stop the alleged collusion in 1999.
The residents are suing the companies for colluding to drive up the bidding price and thereby increasing the cost to the municipalities. They asked the FTC to reveal information from its investigations, and the FTC agreed to grant partial disclosure.
The five companies then appealed, preventing the residents from obtaining the dossiers.
At the high court on Wednesday, presiding Judge Kengo Ishii said the dossiers should not be disclosed as evidence for the residents’ lawsuit before the illegal activities can be confirmed by the FTC.
The five companies welcomed the high court ruling, but the FTC was surprised.
“We have not imagined such a ruling would be handed down,” the FTC said. “We will take the next step after fully examining it.”
Takashi Okawa, a lawyer for the residents, said the ruling was outrageous because it makes it difficult for citizens to file such lawsuits. He said he wants the FTC to appeal to the Supreme Court.
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