On April 18, 2013 before Justice L.D. Ratushny of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, a Japanese supplier of motor vehicle components, Yazaki Corporation (“Yazaki”) pleaded guilty to three counts of bid-rigging, in violation of subsection 47(2) of the Competition Act. The guilty plea arises from Yazaki’s participation in an international bid-rigging conspiracy. Yazaki was fined $30 million, the largest fine ever ordered by a court in Canada for a bid-rigging offence under the Competition Act. The fine exceeds what was the highest fine ordered by a court in Canada for a bid-rigging offence under the Competition Act, namely the $5 million fine imposed upon Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd. (“Furukawa”) on April 4, 2013 in a separate auto parts investigation.
According to the Competition Bureau’s press release, the evidence shows that Yazaki secretly conspired with other Japanese motor vehicle components manufacturers to submit bids or tenders in response to requests for quotations to supply automobile manufactures with motor vehicle components. In particular, the guilty plea relates to wire harnesses supplied to automobile manufactures. Yazaki's reported total volume of commerce in Canada affected by the bid-rigging conspiracy was approximately US$260 million. The Competition Bureau’s press release can be accessed here.
According to the Competition Bureau, it became aware of the motor vehicle components cartel by way of its Immunity Program. It noted that Yazaki participated in the Bureau's Leniency Program and provided substantial assistance to the Bureau and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
Consistent Trend of Increased, Coordinated Enforcement
According to the Competition Bureau, it is engaged in an ongoing investigation into the motor vehicle components industry. The investigation is being coordinated with a number of other jurisdictions, including the United States, Japan, the European Union and Australia.
The unprecedented Yazaki and Furukawa fines underscore a number of consistent trends:
- global businesses are subject to increasing scrutiny by Canada’s Competition Bureau;
- antitrust investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sanctions are growing in Canada; and
- antitrust investigations are increasingly global, with multiple regulators investigating and prosecuting the same conduct, either working together or in parallel.
These trends are expected to continue.