CHICAGO Nippon Seiki Co.
Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $1-million fine for
its role in an alleged conspiracy to fix prices of instrument
panel clusters, or meters, installed in vehicles sold in the
United States and abroad, the U.S. Justice Department said
Nippon Seiki allegedly engaged
in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and
maintain the prices of, instrument panel clusters sold to
automakers between April 2008 and February 2010, according to a
one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court in
Michigan. The company allegedly met with others in order to rig
bids and fix prices for vehicles on a model-by-model basis.
As part of the plea agreement,
which is still subject to the courts approval, Nagoka,
Japan-based Nippon Seiki has agreed to cooperate with the
Justice Departments ongoing investigation.
"For nearly two years, Nippon
Seiki conspired to sell instrument control panels at collusive
and noncompetitive prices, affecting the prices of many
automobiles sold in the United States," according to Scott D.
Hammond, deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice
Departments antitrust divisions criminal
enforcement program. "The division will continue to hold
companies accountable for these types of anticompetitive
practices that harm American consumers."
Including Nippon Seiki, eight
companies have been charged with automotive parts price fixing
and bid rigging since last autumn and agreed to pay fines
totaling more than $785 million. Eleven executives also have
been charged; seven have been sentenced to jail and fined, two
have pleaded guilty and await sentencing, and one is expected
to plead guilty at a Sept. 26 hearing (
amm.com, Aug. 21).
The far-reaching probe has so
far included wire harness systems, seating, steering wheels,
airbags, heater control panels, anti-lock braking systems and
other vehicle parts. Japanese and European Union commercial
competition authorities reportedly are carrying out similar
Companies named in the original
and subsequent indictments face a variety of lawsuits from
consumers and automobile dealers in the United States and