Japanese Fiber Manufacturer to Pay $66 Million for Alleged False Claims Related to Defective Bullet Proof Vests

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Toyobo Co. Ltd. of Japan and its American subsidiary, Toyobo U.S.A. Inc., f/k/a Toyobo America Inc. (collectively, Toyobo), have agreed to pay $66 million to resolve claims under the False Claims Act that they sold defective Zylon fiber used in bullet proof vests that the United States purchased for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, the Justice Department announced today.

The settlement resolves allegations that between at least 2001 and 2005, Toyobo, the sole manufacturer of Zylon fiber, knew that Zylon degraded quickly in normal heat and humidity, and that this degradation rendered bullet proof vests containing Zylon unfit for use.  The United States further alleged that Toyobo nonetheless actively marketed Zylon fiber for bullet proof vests, published misleading degradation data that understated the degradation problem, and when Second Chance Body Armor recalled some of its Zylon-containing vests in late 2003, started a public relations campaign designed to influence other body armor manufacturers to keep selling Zylon-containing vests.  According to the United States, Toyobo’s actions delayed by several years the government’s efforts to determine the true extent of Zylon degradation.  Finally, in August 2005, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) completed a study of Zylon-containing vests and found that more than 50 percent of used vests could not stop bullets that they had been certified to stop.  Thereafter, the NIJ decertified all Zylon-containing vests.

“Bulletproof vests are sometimes what stands between a police officer and death,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “Selling material for these vests that one knows to be defective is dishonest, and risks the lives of the men and women who serve to protect us. The Department of Justice is committed to the protection of our law enforcement officers, and today’s resolution sends another clear message that we will not tolerate those who put our first responders in harm’s way.”

“This settlement sends a strong message to suppliers of products to the federal government that they must be truthful in their claims, particularly with regard to health and safety,” said Carol Fortine Ochoa, Inspector General of the General Services Administration.

This settlement is part of a larger investigation undertaken by the Civil Division of the body armor industry’s use of Zylon in body armor.  The Civil Division previously recovered more than $66 million from 16 entities involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of Zylon vests, including body armor manufacturers, weavers, international trading companies, and five individuals.  The settlement announced today brings the Division’s overall recoveries to over $132 million.  The United States still has lawsuits pending against Richard Davis, the former chief executive of Second Chance, and Honeywell International Inc.

The settlement announced today resolves allegations filed in two lawsuits, one brought by the United States and the other filed by Aaron Westrick, Ph.D., a law enforcement officer formerly employed by Second Chance who is now a Criminal Justice professor at Lake Superior University.  Dr. Westrick’s lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The Act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in 2005 in Dr. Westrick’s case.  Dr. Westrick will receive $5,775,000.

This case was handled by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, along with the General Services Administration, Office of the Inspector General; the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command; the Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General for Tax Administration; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; the Department of Energy, Office of the Inspector General; and the Defense Contracting Audit Agency.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.  The lawsuits resolved by the settlement are captioned United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, et al., No. 04-0280 (PLF) (D.D.C.) and United States v. Toyobo Co. Ltd., et al., No. 07-1144 (PLF) (D.D.C.).

 

Leading Electrolytic Capacitor Manufacturer Indicted for Price Fixing

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nippon Chemi-Con Is Eighth Company Charged in Long-Running Conspiracy

A federal grand jury returned an indictment against an electrolytic capacitor manufacturer for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices for electrolytic capacitors sold to customers in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

The indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, charges that Nippon Chemi-Con Corporation, based in Japan, conspired to suppress and eliminate competition for electrolytic capacitors from as early as September 1997 until January 2014.  Three current Nippon Chemi-Con executives, and one former Nippon Chemi-Con executive, were previously indicted for their participation in the conspiracy: Takuro Isawa, Takeshi Matsuzaka, Yasutoshi Ohno, and Kaname Takahashi.

“Today’s indictment affirms the Antitrust Division’s commitment to holding companies accountable for conspiring to cheat American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Division will prosecute companies—no matter where they are located—that violate U.S. antitrust laws.”

According to the one-count felony charge, Nippon Chemi-Con carried out the conspiracy by agreeing with co-conspirators to fix prices of electrolytic capacitors during meetings and other communications.  Capacitors were then sold in accordance with these agreements.  As part of the conspiracy, Nippon Chemi-Con and its co-conspirators took steps to conceal the conspiracy, including the use of code names and providing misleading justifications for prices and bids submitted to customers in order to cover up their collusive conduct.

As a result of the government’s ongoing investigation, eight companies and ten individuals have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of electrolytic capacitors.  Electrolytic capacitors store and regulate electrical current in a variety of electronic products, including computers, televisions, car engines and airbag systems, home appliances, and office equipment.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Today’s charge results from ongoing federal antitrust investigations being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the capacitor industry.  Anyone with information related to the focus of this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, visit https://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Two Japanese Freight Forwarding Companies Agree To Plead Guilty To Criminal Price-Fixing Charges

Companies Agree to Pay a Total of $18.9 Million in Criminal Fines

WASHINGTON — Two Japanese air freight forwarding companies have agreed to plead guilty and to pay criminal fines totaling $18.9 million for their roles in a conspiracy to fix certain fees in connection with the provision of air freight forwarding services for air cargo shipments from Japan to the United States, the Department of Justice announced today. “K” Line Logistics Ltd. has agreed to pay a $3,507,246 criminal fine and Yusen Logistics Co. Ltd. has agreed to pay a $15,428,207 criminal fine.

Including today’s charges, as a result of this investigation, 16 companies have either pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay criminal fines totaling more than $120 million.

“Consumers were forced to pay higher prices on the goods they buy every day as a result of the noncompetitive and collusive service fees charged by these companies,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Prosecuting these kinds of global, price-fixing conspiracies continues to be a top priority of the Antitrust Division.”

Freight forwarders manage the domestic and international delivery of cargo for customers by receiving, packaging, preparing and warehousing cargo freight, arranging for cargo shipment through transportation providers such as air carriers, preparing shipment documentation and providing related ancillary services.

According to charges filed separately today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, “K” Line Logistics and Yusen Logistics engaged in a conspiracy to fix and to impose certain freight forwarding service fees, including fuel surcharges and various security fees, charged to customers for services provided in connection with air freight forwarding shipments of cargo shipped by air from Japan to the United States from about September 2002 until at least November 2007.

According to the charges, the companies carried out the conspiracy by, among other things, agreeing during meetings and discussions to coordinate and impose certain freight forwarding service fees and charges on customers purchasing freight forwarding services for cargo shipped by air from Japan to the United States. The department said the companies levied freight forwarding service fees in accordance with the agreements reached and engaged in meetings and discussions for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon freight forwarding service fees.

Each company is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Today’s charges are the result of a joint investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section, the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General. Anyone with information concerning the price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct in the freight forwarding industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section at 202-307-6694 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contract/newcase.htm or call the FBI’s Washington Field Office at 202-278-2000.