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US fines Japanese auto parts makers

Keywords: Tags  price fixing, Japan, auto parts suppliers, U.S. automakers, fines, U.S. Antitrust Div., Chrysler Group LLC., Ford Motor Co. General Motors Co.

CHICAGO — Nine Japan-based companies and two executives have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a combined $740 million in fines for conspiring to fix the prices of more than 30 products sold to U.S. automakers and installed in vehicles sold domestically and abroad.

Price-fixed parts were sold to Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., as well as the U.S. subsidiaries of Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru vehicle line, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Many of these parts are metal intensive, including copper wire harnesses. Other metal-containing parts under investigation include bearings, radiators, ignition coils, controls, switches and sensors.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Scott D. Hammond, deputy assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program, discussed the latest charges Sept. 26 during a press conference in Washington.

"Some of the price-fixing conspiracies lasted for a decade or longer," Hammond said. His division has worked with "international competition colleagues who have provided invaluable assistance to the Justice Department in breaking up these worldwide price-fixing cartels."

German antitrust authorities raided eight auto suppliers Sept. 24, according to numerous reports. Aurora, Ontario-based Magna International Inc. confirmed the German Federal Cartel Office searched one of its operating divisions "in connection with an ongoing antitrust investigation of the automobile textile coverings and components industry."

Magna said it is cooperating with German officials.

Those signing the latest plea agreements were Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd.; Jtekt Corp.; Mitsubishi Electric Corp.; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.; bearings producer NSK Ltd.; radiator producer T.RAD Co. Ltd.; Valeo Japan Co. Ltd.; Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd.; Tetsuya Kunida, a former rubber products executive; and Gary Walker, who worked for a Japanese supplier in the U.S.

"These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers, and more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the illegal conduct," Holder said.

This is the largest criminal investigation the Antitrust Division has ever pursued in terms of scope and the commerce affected by the allegations, he said.

"Our work isn’t done. We will continue to check under every hood and kick every tire to make sure we put an end to this illegal and destructive conduct," Holder said.

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