Investigators raid more ad firms in Tokyo Games case

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The building that houses ADK Marketing Solutions Inc. in Minato Ward

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and the Japan Fair Trade Commission on Tuesday raided two more major advertising companies, ADK Marketing Solutions Inc. and Dentsu Live Inc., an advertising production company affiliated with Dentsu Inc.

The companies are suspected of engaging in bid-rigging for contracts to plan test events for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, in violation of the Antimonopoly Law.

In earlier raids of advertising companies, Dentsu Inc. itself was searched on Friday, followed by Hakuhodo Inc. and Tokyu Agency Inc. on Monday. Suspicion has grown that collusion on contracts has been rife throughout the industry. Dentsu, Hakuhodo and ADK Holdings Inc. are Japan’s three largest advertising agencies.

The bids in question were for a total of 26 contracts, each covering test events at one or two venues, from May to August 2018. Nine companies and one joint venture won the bidding. The total value of the successful bids was approximately ¥537 million.

Dentsu, Hakuhodo, ADK and Tokyu Agency together won bids accounting for half of that sum.

Hakuhodo won two bids for Oi Hockey Stadium and other venues, worth a total of about ¥40 million yen, and also had a private contract for the same kind of work at Kokugikan Arena after the bidding process for that project failed. Tokyu Agency won three contracts totaling ¥65 million, including one for the Tokyo International Forum.

“I thought Dentsu, Hakuhodo and ADK were leaders in the industry,” a 29-year-old Hakuhodo employee lamented. “The public is going to be suspicious of everything we do in the industry.”

Events company Same Two Inc. and TV program production company Fuji Creative Corp. were also raided on Monday.

An employee of one advertising company that participated in the bidding said, “Perhaps there was a lack of awareness in the industry [of the need] to be fair in bidding.”

The test events were for sports in which each company had been deeply involved in the past, either by managing the venue or sponsoring events.

Event-planning firm Cerespo Co. won five contracts worth a total of approximately ¥115 million, for venues including Yoyogi Gymnasium, which served as the venue for handball and other events, the National Stadium, and the Tokyo Gymnasium. The company has a track record in athletics operations and has been an official sponsor of the Japan Handball League since 2011.

 Dentsu, which won the bid for the soccer venue, signed an eight-year partnership agreement with the Japan Football Association in May of this year, to take effect in 2023.

ADK, which won three bids for the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Equestrian Park, and Sea Forest Cross-Country Course, has been a sponsor-soliciting agency for the Japan Equestrian Federation at least since 2017.

Investigators suspect the organizing committee for the Tokyo Games and Dentsu may have led the coordination of the orders by taking the areas of expertise of each company into account.