The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced this week that Hitachi Chemical Co. will plead guilty to a criminal charge for conspiring with competitors to fix the prices of electrolytic capacitors sold in the United States and elsewhere. The Tokyo-based company will pay an undisclosed fine and has agreed to cooperate with the DOJ’s investigation.
Hitachi is pleading to participating in a cartel-like price-fixing scheme was long-lasting and had global reach. According to the DOJ, it started as early as September 1997 and lasted until January 2014, though Hitachi Chemical was involved only between 2002 and 2010. Possible co-conspirators are under investigation in the European Union, Brazil, China, Korea, and Japan.
Electrolytic capacitors are fundamental in the operation of a variety of electrical devices, such as televisions, computers, and car engines. The DOJ vowed to “continue to pursue companies and individuals that conspire to undermine competition for technology components of all shapes and sizes.”
The plea agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, is subject to court approval. If approved, Hitachi’s will be the second guilty plea in the DOJ’s ongoing investigation into the capacitor industry. NEC Tokin Corp. pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $13.8 million criminal fine last September.