WASHINGTON - The United States charged seven Japanese executives with price-fixing Thursday in a long-running probe into illegal practices in the auto parts industry.
Three executives from Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (IW 1000/115) were accused by a federal grand jury of conspiring to set the prices of starter motors, alternators and ignition coils sold to top U.S. manufacturers, and U.S.-based Japanese manufacturers, from at least 2000 through 2010.
Another four executives from Hitachi Automotive Systems were similarly charged over price-fixing involving a number of parts sold to U.S. automakers including starter motors, fuel injection systems, and ignition coils.
Both groups of executives were alleged to have directed and participated in efforts with others in the industry to set prices and rig bids for supply contracts.
Each of the seven faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, with the possibility of doubling the fine if the gain from the crime or the loss suffered by the victim is seen to be higher than $1 million.
In the same cases both Mitsubishi Electric and Hitachi Automotive pleaded guilty to criminal price-fixing charges last year, and were fined $190 million and $195 million, respectively.
Over the past several years U.S. justice authorities have fined 28 companies, mostly Japanese, more than $2.4 billion in the ongoing probe into bid-rigging and price-fixing in the parts industry.
In addition, 43 individuals have been charged, and 26 have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to one- to two-year prison terms.
"Protecting American consumers from anticompetitive practices is our top priority," said Brent Snyder of the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust unit in a statement.
"The Antitrust Division will continue to pursue the auto parts makers and executives who engaged in this blatant and harmful criminal scheme."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014