Japanese Auto Suppliers Fined $500 Million for Price Fixing

Yazaki Corp. and Denso Corp. sold wire harnesses and related electrical and electronic components to automobile manufacturers at inflated prices and ran a bid-rigging and price-fixing scheme.

Yazaki Corp. and Denso Corp. will pay more than a half billion dollars for price fixing in a vast conspiracy in the U.S. automotive market, the Justice Department said on Jan. 30

The companies greed to plead guilty and to pay $548 million in criminal fines for their involvement in the price-fixing and bid-rigging scheme, the department said.

Yazaki will pay $470 million, the second-largest U.S. criminal antitrust fine in history, and Denso will pay $78 million.

Yazaki and Denso and their co-conspirators sold wire harnesses and related electrical and electronic components to automobile manufacturers at inflated prices and ran a bid-rigging and price-fixing scheme, the Justice Department said.

"All of these parts are essential to the wiring, circuit boards, gauges and fuel tanks of automobiles," Sharis Pozen, Justice's acting antitrust chief, said.

In the same case four Yazaki executives, all Japanese nationals, have agreed to plead guilty, pay a $20,000 criminal fine, and serve prison time in the United States. The executives were identified as Tsuneaki Hanamura, Ryoji Kawai, Shigeru Ogawa and Hisamitsu Takada. The department said they participated in the conspiracies at least as early as January 2000 until at least February 2010.

"The executives, who held various positions in Yazaki with responsibilities including managing sales to Honda and Toyota, participated in the wire harness conspiracy," Pozen said.

The four executives face prison sentences ranging from 15 months to two years. They have all agreed to assist in the investigation, the department said. The fine amounts and prison sentences are subject to court approval.

The actions marked the second round in a sweeping probe of auto parts suppliers. In late September, Japanese firm Furukawa Electric Co. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $200 million fine for its role in the wire harnesses conspiracy. Three of its executives also pleaded guilty; two have already been sentenced to prison and one is awaiting sentencing next month.

"The auto parts investigation is the largest criminal investigation the Antitrust Division has ever pursued, both in terms of its scope and the potential volume of commerce affected," Pozen said. "Our investigation is still active and ongoing."

More than $748 million in fines have been collected in the investigation.

"Criminal antitrust enforcement remains a top priority and the Antitrust Division will continue to work with the FBI and our law enforcement counterparts to root out this kind of pernicious cartel conduct that results in higher prices to American consumers and businesses," Pozen said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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