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Deadlock in Japan Price-Fixing Case Leads to Mistrial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A mistrial was declared Monday in the nation’s first criminal antitrust trial of a foreign company charged with alleged misconduct that took place entirely outside the United States.

A federal judge in Boston dismissed jurors after they reported being deadlocked in weighing the culpability of Nippon Paper Industries Co. of Japan, which is accused of conspiring in 1990 with several other Japanese paper makers to fix prices of thermal fax paper in the United States.

Justice Department officials have to decide soon whether to retry Nippon or drop the charges.

In a separate indictment, Appleton Paper of Wisconsin and five Japanese paper makers were charged for conspiring to fix prices for fax paper in 1991. Appleton was eventually acquitted of those charges. The Japanese paper makers pleaded guilty and paid hefty fines.

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But Nippon officials have consistently denied that they engaged in price fixing.

Jeffrey W. Kilduff, an attorney for Nippon, said Monday that “the evidence presented [during the six-week trial] and the jury’s rejection of the government’s case” vindicated the company.

“We believe at the outset and continue to believe today that Nippon Paper did not agree to fix prices,” Kilduff said.

Federal prosecutors were unavailable for comment.

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Jurors will return to court today to discuss the trial with prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case.

Nippon’s landmark trial was seen by some legal scholars as a test for federal prosecutors, who are increasingly targeting foreign cartels that allegedly fix prices of goods sold in the United States.

About 25 grand juries in the United States are hearing evidence involving alleged collusion by foreign corporations, according to the Justice Department.


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