A federal grand jury yesterday indicted five leading shipping lines, two European consortia and 13 individuals on charges of illegally fixing the rates for shipping freight between the United States and Europe.
Although price-fixing activities of shipping firms are usually immunized from antitrust prosecution by the Federal Maritime Commission, the indictments returned yesterday alleged that the companies and their officials agreed to fix prices outside the scope of agreements approved by the FMC.
The charges were contained in two indictments filed in the United States District Court here: a felony indictment against the companies and a misdemeanor indictment against the individuals, charging violation of the same section of the Sherman Act.
The indictment against the companies covers activities between 1971 and 1975, when they were the seven major container lines between the U.S. and Europe, the Justice Department said. All together they had approximately 60 percent of the $1 billion-a-year trade in that market.
Named in the felony indictment were:
United States Lines. Inc., New York.
Seatrain Lines, New York.
Sea-Land Service, Inc., Menlo Park, N.J.
American Export Lines, Inc. (now merged into Farrell Lines, Inc.), New York.
Hapag-Lloyd Aktiengesellschaft, a German firm with headquarters in Hamburg.
Atlantic Container Line, Ltd., an FMC-approved consortium of firms from Sweden, Holland, France, and the United Kingdom, with offices in Southampton, England.
Dart Containerline Co. Ltd., an FMC-approved consortium of firms from Belgium, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, with offices in Southampton and Antwerp, Belgium.