Today we bring you the first part of our second biennial update on DOJ criminal actions in the cartel area. This has been a busy six months for the Antitrust Division, so we are breaking this update up into installments. Today, we look at auto parts. The DOJ has continued its aggressive prosecution of price-fixing and bid-rigging in the auto parts industry in recent months – particularly in the Eastern District of Michigan – securing numerous guilty pleas from Japan, German, and Korean-based companies or their U.S. subsidiaries, as well as guilty pleas or indictments as to several former company executives.
Japanese Manufacturer of Steering Columns Pleads Guilty, Agrees to $2.5 Million Fine
The DOJ announced on April 28 that Yamada Manufacturing Co. agreed to plead guilty in the Southern District of Ohio to a single Sherman Act count and pay a $2.5 million fine. The criminal information charges that Yamada and its coconspirators fixed prices and rigged bids in the sale of steering columns for use in Honda vehicles from 2007 to 2012. United States v. Yamada Mfg. Co., No. 15-cr-00047-SJD (S.D. Oh. Apr. 28, 2015).
Hitachi Automotive Executive Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to 15 Months
A Hitachi Automotive executive, Takashi Toyokuni, pleaded guilty on April 23, 2015 in the Eastern District of Michigan to a single count of Sherman Act conspiracy. Toyokuni admitted participating in a conspiracy from 2000 to 2010 to rig bids and prices for a wide range of automotive parts, including starter motors and fuel injection systems, for vehicles made by Nissan, Honda, GM, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler. Toyokuni was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment, a significant variance from the federal guidelines sentence of 37-46 months. United States v. Toyokuni, No. 14-cr-20559 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 23, 2015). The DOJ press release is here.
Bosch Agrees to Plead Guilty and Pay $57.8 Million Fine
The DOJ announced on March 31 that German auto parts giant Robert Bosch GmbH agreed to plead guilty in the Eastern District of Michigan to a single count of Sherman Act conspiracy. The DOJ charged Bosch with participating in a scheme to manipulate prices, bids, and supply for spark plugs and oxygen sensors sold to the big three U.S. automakers, as well as starter motors sold to Volkswagen for use in VWs sold in the U.S. The DOJ reports that Bosch has agreed to pay a $57.8 million fine. United States v. Robert Bosch GmbH, No. 15-cr-20197 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 31, 2015).
Parking Heater Company Pleads Guilty, Agrees to $15 Million Fine
Espar, Inc., the Illinois-based subsidiary of a German manufacturer, agreed on January 19 to plead guilty in the Eastern District of New York to a single count of Sherman Act Conspiracy and pay a $14.97 million fine. According to the agreement, Espar conspired between 2007 and 2012 to fix prices in the market for parking heaters, which are used to heat engine compartments independent of a vehicle’s engine. United States v. Espar, Inc., No. 15-cr-00028-JG (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2015). The DOJ’s press release is here.
Air Conditioner Compressor Manufacturer Pleads Guilty, Agrees to $3.2 Million Fine
The Japanese auto parts manufacturer Sanden Corp. pleaded guilty on March 30 in the Eastern District of Michigan to a single count of Sherman Act conspiracy and agreed to pay a $3.2 million fine. The criminal information charges Sanden with manipulating bids and prices on air conditioner compressors sold to Nissan between August 2008 and April 2009. United States v. Sanden Corp., No. 15-cr-20033-GCS-APP (E.D. Mich. Mar. 30, 2015). The DOJ’s press release is here.
Former Toyoda Gosei Exec Pleads Guilty, Agrees to a Year and a Day in Prison
Makoto Horie, a former executive of Toyoda Gosei Co., was sentenced on February 26, 2015 in the Northern District of Ohio to a year and a day in prison and a $20,000 fine in connection with a Sherman Act conspiracy charge. The criminal information charges Horie with conspiring to manipulate prices, rig bids, and allocate sales of automotive hoses for Toyota vehicles between 2007 and 2010. United States. v. Horie, No. 15-cr-00003-JZ (N.D. Oh. Jan. 6, 2015). The DOJ’s press release is here.
One Former Mitsuba Executive Pleads Guilty and is Sentenced to Prison, Two More Former Execs Indicted
On December 10, 2014, Kazumi Umahashi, a former executive of Japanese auto parts manufacturer Mitsuba Corp., pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Michigan to a single Sherman Act conspiracy count and was sentenced to 13 months’ imprisonment. According to his plea agreement with the DOJ, Umahashi conspired between 2005 and 2009 to manipulate bids, prices, and supply for windshield wiper parts and starter motors sold to Honda. United States v. Umahashi, No. 14-cr-20760-GFCS-DRG (E.D. Mich. Dec. 9, 2014). On February 5 of this year, two additional former Mitsuba executives, Hiroyuki Komiya and Hirofumi Nakayama, were indicted on similar grounds, along with an additional count for obstruction of justice. The indictment charges Komiya and Nakayama with persuading Mitsuba employees to delete or electronic data and destroy documents that might contain evidence of antitrust crimes. United States v. Komiya, No. 15-cr-20059-GCS-EAS (E.D. Mich. Feb. 5, 2015). The DOJ’s press releases are here and here.
Takata Executive Indicted for Seatbelt Price-Fixing Conspiracy
On January 22, Hiromu Usuda, an executive of Japanese manufacturer Takata Corp., was indicted in the Eastern District of Michigan on a single count of Sherman Act conspiracy. The indictment charges Usuda with conspiring to rig bids, prices, and supply of seatbelts sold to Honda, Subaru, and Mazda between 2005 and 2011. United States v. Usuda, No. 15-cr-20029-GCS-MKM (E.D. Mich. Jan. 22, 2015). The DOJ’s press release is here.
T.RAD Executive Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to a Year and a Day
Kosei Tamura, a former general manager of Japan-based T.RAD, pleaded guilty on December 9, 2014 in the Eastern District of Michigan to a Sherman Act conspiracy count and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. According to the plea agreement with the DOJ, Tamura conspired to rig bids and fix prices for radiators sold to Honda between 2002 and 2010. United States v. Tamura, No. 14-cr-20759-GCS-MKM (E.D. Mich. Dec. 9, 2014). The DOJ’s press release is here.
Executives of Two Manufacturers Indicted for Price-Fixing Conspiracy in Bearings Market
On November 13, 2014, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Kentucky returned an indictment charging a single count of Sherman Act conspiracy against executives of two Japanese manufacturers. The indictment charges Hiroya Hirose, an NSK, Ltd. sales manager, and Masakazu Iwami, a Jtekt Corp. section manager, with conspiring between 2001 and 2011 to allocate markets, rig bids, and manipulate prices for bearings sold for use in Toyota vehicles. United States. v. Hirose, No. 14-cr-00049-DLB-CJS (E.D. Ky. Nov. 13, 2014). The DOJ’s press release is here.
Aisin Seiki Pleads Guilty, Agrees to $35.8 Million Fine
Japan-based Aisin Seiki Co. pleaded guilty on February 5 in the Southern District of Indiana to a single Sherman Act conspiracy count and agreed to pay a $35.8 million fine. According to a plea agreement, Aisin Seiki conspired between 2000 and 2010 to fix prices and rig bids for variable valve timing devices sold for use in vehicles made by GM, Nissan, Volvo, and BMW. United States v. Aisin Seiki Co., No. 14-cr-00229-JMS-MJD (S.D. Ind. Dec. 1, 2014). The DOJ’s press release is here.
Continental Automotive Divisions Plead Guilty, Agree to $4 Million Fine
Two Korea-based divisions of the Continental conglomerate, Continental Automotive Electronics LLC and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd, pleaded guilty on April 1, 2015 in the Northern District of Georgia to a single Sherman Act conspiracy count. The companies agreed to pay a $4 million fine. According to their plea agreement with the government, the two companies conspired between 2004 and 2012 to allocate and rig bids for instrument panel clusters made for Hyundai and Kia vehicles. United States v. Continental Auto. Elecs., LLC, No. 14-cr-00019-TCB (N.D. Ga. Apr. 1, 2015). The DOJ’s press release is here.