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2012年6月25日 (月)

ベアリング業界 不正な「なれ合い」を断ち切れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 25, 2012)
Bearing manufacturers must end illicit collusion
ベアリング業界 不正な「なれ合い」を断ち切れ(6月24日付・読売社説)

A structure of collusion has been exposed in a business sector that is no stranger to such irregularities. Now is the time to eliminate this corruption.
 業界内のなれ合い体質が不正の温床となっていた。悪弊を断ち切らねばならない。

A price-fixing cartel involving industrial machinery bearings used in the manufacture of automobiles and other mechanical items has been brought to light.
 自動車部品などに使われるベアリングの販売を巡る価格カルテルが摘発された。

The Fair Trade Commission has filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor general against three major manufacturers of bearings and seven former executives of these firms on suspicion of violating the Antimonopoly Law. In response, prosecutors have indicted them.
公正取引委員会は、大手メーカー3社と元役員ら7人を独占禁止法違反の疑いで検事総長に告発し、検察当局が起訴した。

Bearings lessen friction between moving parts of machinery and are built into a wide range of industrial products, including home appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators. It is an enormous business, with the domestic market alone worth 400 billion yen a year.
 ベアリングは機械の回転部分の摩擦を小さくする部品で、洗濯機や冷蔵庫など多くの製品に組み込まれている。市場規模は国内だけで年間4000億円と巨大だ。

The four major companies involved in the alleged collusion--including one that reported the illicit practice to the fair trade watchdog on its own and was thereby spared criminal charges--have a total market share of nearly 90 percent.
 不正を自主申告し、告発を免れた1社を含めると、市場での大手4社の占有率は9割近い。

Since a high level of technological capability is required for the production of bearings, it is hard for new firms to enter the field.
ベアリングの製造では高度な技術力が求められるため、新たな企業が参入することも難しい。

Under the circumstances, it is evident that if the big four companies secretly form a cartel on the price of bearings, the market will be unfairly distorted.
 こうした状況で、大手4社が価格の協定を秘密裏に結べば、市場の公正さが歪(ゆが)められてしまうのは明らかである。

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Collusion a hard habit to break

The consequences of a price-fixing cartel are eventually passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for products.
 カルテルは最終的に割高な製品価格となって消費者に跳ね返る。

It is only natural that the FTC has made criminal accusations on the ground that the cartel "can have grave impacts on people's livelihoods."
This is the FTC's first price cartel case in about 3-1/2 years.
公取委が「国民生活に重大な影響を及ぼす」として、3年半ぶりの告発に踏み切ったのは当然だ。

The big four manufacturers, with the aim of passing along the rising price of steel, the raw material for bearings, in product prices, allegedly raised bearing prices in a coordinated, behind-the-scenes manner as many as five times from 2004 to 2010.
 大手4社は、原材料となる鋼材の価格上昇分を転嫁するため、2004年から10年まで5回にわたり、ベアリング価格の値上げを繰り返した。

The four companies are thought to have engaged in such maneuvering as offering different clients slightly different markups in a bid to hide the existence of the cartel, according to the FTC.
取引先別に価格の提示額を少しずつ変え、カルテルの発覚を防ぐ工作もしていた。

Back in 1973, this industrial sector was subject to administrative punishments by the FTC because of a price cartel.
 この業界は、1973年にも価格カルテルで公取委の行政処分を受けた。

It is very troubling that the bearing industry has failed for so long to shake the habit of unfairly colluding to raise prices. To prevent further recurrences, bearing manufacturers should do their utmost to impress upon the minds of their personnel the need for compliance with laws and regulations.
なれ合い体質が改められていなかったのは問題だ。業界内で法令順守の意識を徹底させ、再発防止を図る必要がある。

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Leniency policy proves effective

Worthy of note this time is that the system introduced in 2006 for lenience in imposing cartel-related fines led to the revelation of the irregularities.
 今回注目されるのは、2006年に導入された課徴金減免制度が摘発に結びついた点だ。

Under the leniency policy, up to five companies can have their penalties reduced if they step forward on their own to report an illicit business practice. In particular, the first company to report an illicit practice before the FTC starts to clamp down on the case is entitled to full immunity from criminal charges and fines.
 自ら不正を申告した企業は最大5社まで課徴金が減免される。特に、公取委の立ち入り検査前に最初に申告すれば、課徴金全額が免除され、告発も見送られる。

Although it was earlier difficult for the FTC to obtain material evidence of such violations as bid-rigging and price-fixing, which by their nature are committed sub rosa, the leniency policy has made it easier to get wind of such illicit dealings.
 密室で協議を重ねる談合やカルテルは証拠が残りにくかったが、この制度の導入により、公取委は手がかりを得やすくなった。

The number of reporters of illicit business practices has been on the rise recently. The FTC, for its part, should make the best use of such reports for cracking down on irregular business practices so that the consciousness that "crime does not pay" will percolate through the nation's entire business world.
 申告件数は増加傾向にある。公取委は申告を摘発につなげ、「不正は割に合わない」という意識を浸透させることが肝要だ。

Overseas law enforcement authorities, too, have been strengthening their vigilance and surveillance regarding cartels.
 カルテルに関しては海外当局も監視を強めている。

In recent years, an increasing number of Japanese companies have been assessed huge fines in the United States, Europe and elsewhere for price-fixing cartels.
近年、米国や欧州では、日本企業が巨額の罰金を科されるケースが目立つ。

Japanese companies whose operations extend overseas must newly take to heart that such irregularities could destroy their international reputations.
 これらの不正行為が国際的な信用失墜につながることを、海外で事業展開する日本企業は改めて肝に銘じるべきだろう。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2012)
(2012年6月24日01時28分  読売新聞)

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