Japanese Auto-Parts Executives Headed to Prison

Three executives from Furukawa Electric agreed to serve 12 to 18 months in a federal prison for their roles in a price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy.

Japanese auto-parts firm Furukawa Electric was fined $200 million and three company executives were sentenced to prison for price fixing and bid rigging, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Furukawa and the executives pleaded guilty to the felony charges, the first in an ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging by international auto-parts suppliers, the department said.

The three executives -- Junichi Funo, Hirotsugu Nagata and Tetsuya Ukai -- agreed to serve 12 to 18 months in a U.S. prison for their roles in the conspiracy, the department said.

The fines and sentences still have to be approved by a court.

"As a result of this international price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy, automobile manufacturers paid noncompetitive and higher prices for parts in cars sold to U.S. consumers," the department's acting assistant attorney general, Sharis Pozen, said in a news release.

The price-fixing ring involved the supply of wiring harnesses and related products to automakers over at least a decade to 2010, according to the department.

Pozen did not name any other companies suspected of taking part in the price-fixing ring, but told reporters that the investigation is ongoing.

Two of the executives -- Funo and Ukai -- worked in Japan in the company's Honda sales division, but Funo also spent time during the period under investigation in the Detroit area.

Nagata was general manager of sales at Furukawa's U.S. subsidiary, and also worked in the Detroit area.

Pozen said the company cooperated with investigators, but declined to say whether that resulted in reduced fines or prison sentences.

She also said the investigation involved authorities from other countries, but declined to be specific.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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