- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

Three top executives of a Japanese firm were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in an international scheme to fix the prices of non-machined and semi-machined isostatic graphite, the Justice Department said.
Ibiden Co. Ltd. agreed to plead guilty and pay a $3.6 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy, the department said.
"The charges filed today further demonstrate the [anti-trust division's] resolve to detect and prosecute those companies and individuals involved in international cartels that harm American businesses and consumers," said Assistant Attorney General Charles A. James, who heads the anti-trust division.
Justice Department officials said isostatic graphite is a fine-grained carbon product with resistance to heat and chemical reaction. It is commonly used to produce, among other products, electrodes for electrical discharge machinery, dies for the continuous casting of metals and various products used in the semiconductor industry.
In the indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the grand jury charged Masaru Endo, chairman of Ibiden, Shigeo Yasuda, general manager of Ibiden's ceramic department, and Akira Hashimoto, general manager of international sales in Ibiden's ceramic department, with conspiring with unnamed corporate and individual co-conspirators to suppress and eliminate competition.
The indictment said the product was sold in the United States and elsewhere from as early as July 1993 until at least February 1998. All three executives are Japanese citizens.
At the same time, the department said, a separate charge also was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia against Ibiden Co. Ltd. of Ogaki, Japan, for its participation in the isostatic graphite price-fixing conspiracy.
As part of its plea agreement, which must be approved by the court, Ibiden agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of the individual isostatic graphite defendants.
Ibiden is the third company to be charged with participating in the isostatic graphite conspiracy, following Carbone of America Industries Corp. (CAIC) and Toyo Tanso USA Inc. Two other executives — Michel Coniglio, CAIC's president and chief executive officer, and Takeshi Takagi, an executive of Toyo Tanso USA's Japanese parent — also have pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges.
The $3.6 million fine against Ibiden, if approved by the court, would bring the total fines imposed in this investigation to more than $15 million.
The indictment and accompanying documents charge the defendants and co-conspirators with carrying out the price-fixing conspiracy by participating in meetings and conversations to discuss prices and grades of non-machined and semi-machined isostatic graphite sold in the United States and elsewhere, agreeing to charge prices at certain levels and to increase and maintain those prices.
The companies also were accused of agreeing to maintain market shares, to refrain from selling non-machined and semi-machined isostatic graphite to a co-conspirator's customer and agreeing to eliminate discounts from the fixed price of non-machined and semi-machined isostatic graphite.
If convicted, the three Ibiden officials face imprisonment of up to three years and $350,000 fines.

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