Six of the world's biggest air cargo freight-forwarders have signed up to plead guilty to participating in international price-fixing conspiracies and to pay fines totaling just north of $50 million, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice disclosed today.

Freight forwarders serve as the middle persons between outfits that have cargo to ship and carriers that can get it from point A to point B.  They work for the shippers and bill the them for their services.

The DOJ's press release said that different combinations of the six guilty-pleaders agreed in six separate conspiracies to impose extra charges on their customers, including an Air Automated Manifest System fee, a New Export System fee, a Current Adjustment Factor charge, and Peak Season Surcharge.  The earliest conspiracy started in 2002, and the last one ended no sooner than the end of 2007, according to the release.

On Monday, the DOJ reported an impending guilty plea and promise to pay a $40 million fine by an air cargo carrier, China Airlines.  (Post here.) 

Today's press release mentioned two conspiracies involving shipments from China and Hong Kong, respectively.  China Airlines serves several cities in mainland China as well as Hong Kong.