Five Japanese television manufacturers have pointed their fingers back at their accuser, the Zenith Radio Corp, in the high-stakes lobbying battle over American consumers' TV dollars.
In their rebuttal to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, the Japanese called the blizzard of charges by Zenith "a clever mixture of economic doubletalk, "yellow-peril" scare tactics and deliberately misleading (and frequently downright false) statements."
The Japanese are battling Zenith for the mind of John H. Shenefield, who is acting as assistant attorney general for antitrust while awaiting confirmation to that post.
Shenefield has already been visited by representatives of Zenith, which accuses 18 Japanese companies of violating U.S. antitrust law through a "cartel" agreement.
Zenith also charges that some Japanese manufacturers paid secret rebates to American purchasers in violation of customs law, and the Japanese memorandum answers these allegations only obliqueley.
Any antitrust investigation should be of Zenith, not us, the Japanese manufacturers say in their 46-page memorandum to Shenefield prepared by their lawyers.
Zenith, the memo says, is "a would-be monopolist whose sole purpose in bleating (about Japanese competition) is to protect its position as the dominat, price-protected producer of television sets in the United States (and which) has been able to manipulate the reins of government to protect itself against competition."
Zenith has 22 per cent of the U.S. color television market, RCA has about 20 per cent and all Japanese importers together have about 33 per cent. The battle is over color sets only.
"It the [antiturst] division does not act soon," the Japanese complaint says "Zenith will ultimately succeed in stifling the only new competition this industry has had."
Zenith's latest attempt to inspire the Justice Department to investigate its Japanese competitors has been well planned, the Japanese manufacturers' memorandum says.
It alleges that nothing has changed since former Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Donald Baker wrote Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) last Feb. 16 "except the intensity of Zenith's political efforts."
Baker had decided not to conduct an antitrust investigation, the Japanese memo says.
However, Sens. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) and Storm Thurmond (R-S.C.) raised charges of Japanese antitrust activities again at a May hearing of the Seante Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee.
Bayh and Thurmond were obviously fed their questions by the Washington law firm Blum, Parker & Nash on behalf of Zenith, the Japanese manufacturer's memo charges.
The memo written for Matsushitta Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic in the United States), Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd., Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co., Ltd. (Toshiba) and Sharp Electronics Corp. denies that any Japanese manufacturers secretly agreed to give rebates to U.S. customers, but that is not Zenith's accusations.
Zenith representatives say documents on file in a civil treble damage suit in Philadelphia prove that rebates were paid in violation of the law.
Zenith does not allege there was a conspiracy to pay the rebates.
The Japanese manufacturers' memorandum says some Japanese companies may have given "extra concessions" to certain U.S. customers from time to time.
It says, however, "this would be nothing more than price competition."