Freight forwarder probe widens
An investigation into forwarding industry pricing practices now includes antitrust investigators from the European Union, Switzerland, United States and Canada, looking into activities of more than a dozen companies, including some of the very largest in the world.
An executive with one of the companies involved, gave American Shipper the names of 15 firms that he said were listed on the subpoena served on his company; another said it was about a dozen but did not have an exact count.
A number of those companies have issued statements saying their offices have been visited by investigators or that they have been served with requests for information, but others have not.
Friday, DHL spokeswoman Silje Skogstad confirmed that her company’s global forwarding division had received requests for information from Swiss, EU, and U.S. authorities and that the company was cooperating. She said no DHL offices had been searched.
UTi Worldwide Inc. made a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in which it said that as early as July it had responded to a subpoena from the U.S. Justice Department in connection with its probe into the pricing practices of a number of foreign and domestic air carriers.
UTi said Wednesday that in connection with the new probe of the forwarding industry, the Justice Department executed a search warrant on a subsidiary of the company “which the company believes was one of many search warrants executed by the DOJ in a coordinated manner on other leading companies in the industry.”
UTi also said Wednesday it “received a notice from the Canadian Competition Bureau that the bureau has commenced an investigation with respect to alleged anticompetitive activity of persons involved in the provision of international freight forwarding services to and from Canada and requesting that UTi preserve any records relevant to such investigation.”
It’s not known if investigators are active in any other part of the world.
UTI said it is “continuing to cooperate with these investigations.”
Rolf Altorfer, chief executive officer for the U.S. operations of Swiss forwarder Kuehne + Nagel Inc., said his company’s offices had been visited Wednesday by investigators who removed some files and mirrored hard drives on computers.
“They were very professional and courteous,” he said, but the company sent employees home for the day. By Thursday, he said things were back to normal and that business was being conducted as usual.
He said the investigation is looking at price fixing issues involving fuel or other surcharges but that he knew of no such activity in the United States where he is based.
Germany’s Schenker AG, part of Deutsche Bahn, confirmed Thursday afternoon that competition authorities are investigating the company as part of the wide antitrust probe.
Schenker said an inspection ordered by the Commission of the European Communities in Brussels, representatives of the General Directorate for Competition and of the German Federal Antitrust Authority, has been conducted at its Essen headquarters. Similarly, its offices in South Africa, Switzerland and the United States have been called at by investigators.
“Free and unhampered competition is a top priority for Schenker,” the company said in a statement. “Consequently the company has assisted the representatives of the competition authorities in all matters connected with these investigations. Schenker will continue to contribute to the clarification of the facts of the case.”
Other companies that say their offices have been visited or received requests for information include Eagle Global Logistics, Swiss firm Panalpina, and Seattle, Wash.-based Expeditors. The companies said they are cooperating with officials.