Japanese rubber products giant Bridgestone will pay a fine of $28 million for rigging bids in the U.S. and bribing Latin American officials, authorities announced on Sept. 15.
Bridgestone agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges that it used illegal practices to gain millions of dollars in sales of marine hoses, used mainly to transfer oil, between 1999 and 2007, the US Department of Justice said.
Under the plea deal, Bridgestone will admit that it violated U.S. antitrust law by conspiring with other unnamed companies to fix prices in the United States and elsewhere, the department said.
"The cartel affected prices for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of marine hose and related products sold worldwide," it said.
Bridgestone also admitted that its U.S.-based representatives bribed Latin American officials, including a number of officials from Mexican state oil company Pemex, to win deals.
Such actions were a violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars companies with a presence in the United States from bribing foreign government officials.
In one instance, a Texas-based employee of Bridgestone sent a fax to Japan describing the illegal payments to Pemex officials and writing "Read and Destroy" to the message, the department alleged in a court filing.
Bridgestone said that it had cooperated with the probe and had taken "extensive" steps to make amends, including terminating many of its third-party agents and withdrawing from the marine hose business.
"We are committed to the efforts to further enhance and expand our remediation measures, and to conduct business in compliance with the competition and anticorruption laws around the world," Bridgestone said.
Bridgestone is the fifth company to be charged in the U.S. Department of Justice's investigation into marine hose bid-rigging, which dates back several years.
Among the nine people already jailed in the case, Misao Hioki, the former general manager of Bridgestone's international engineered products department, was given a two-year prison sentence in 2008.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011