Namely, Maersk and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) were among a number of companies that were ordered to testify in an antitrust investigation that started in 2017. The investigation regarded practices by the shipping industry.
Specifically, container companies have tried to decrease costs by creating alliances to pool sailing schedules and port calls. Many were those who believe that these practices can cause reduced services and increased prices for customers.
As Reuters reported, the DoJ informed MSC that it will not bring any charges or impose penalties. In addition, the investigation also released Maersk from any obligations under the Grand Jury subpoenas, which were issued in March 2017. Commenting on this development, MSC noted that it is an important decision for the container industry.
Hapag-Lloyd was also among the companies included in the investigation, but it has not provided any statement as of yet.
If the investigation was to charge the companies, it could have imposed large fines at a time when the container sector faces many difficulties due to slowing global economic growth. In fact, recently Maersk had expressed its concerns that trade headwinds could limit container demand growth in 2019, dropping its shares down by 10%.
In a similar case in 2016, the European Union antitrust regulators had accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 other competitors to change their pricing practices, in order not to receive fines.