US$52.1 MILLION CRIMINAL FINE IMPOSED BY THE US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ON NGK SPARK PLUG CO. LTD FOR CONSPIRACY TO FIX PRICES AND RIG BIDS

NGK Spark Plug Co. Ltd ("NGK"), a Japanese manufacturer of spark plugs and other parts for automobiles, has agreed with the US Department of Justice ("DOJ") to plead guilty to allegations that, for over 11 years, it conspired to fix prices and rig bids for products sold to major car manufacturers including DaimlerChrysler AG, Honda Motor Co. Ltd and Toyota Motor Corp., both inside and outside of the US. In accordance with NGK's agreement with the DOJ, it will also pay a US$52.1 million criminal fine.

The announcement of NGK's guilty plea and fine by the DOJ states that this charge "is the latest in the department's on-going investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry" and notes that NGK has also agreed to cooperate with the DOJ's ongoing investigation.

ENHANCED MEASURES IN RESPECT OF VIOLATION OF JAPAN'S UNFAIR COMPETITION PREVENTION ACT RELATING TO OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT AID

It has been announced that, from September 2014, the Japanese Government will enhance the measures applicable to those arrested or indicted for violation of Japan's Unfair Competition Prevention Act by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs ("MOFA") where such violation relates to countries participating in Japan's Official Development Aid ("ODA") scheme. In particular, the maximum period for which such entities will be disqualified from bidding for ODA related business, depending on the seriousness of the offence, will be increased from 3 years to 6 years.

Further, in an attempt to strengthen existing measures for discovering such wrongdoing, a list of individuals at Japanese embassies and consulates to whom corrupt activities may be reported has been added to MOFA website – link (Japanese only).

It is reported that these measures follow on from the charges brought under the Unfair Competition Prevention Act against officials of Japan Transportation Consultants Inc ("JTC"). These charges related to payments by JTC to officials of state-run Vietnam Railways in order to obtain an ODA funded urban railway construction project. For more details of this story, please see our updates from earlier this year.