Hitachi Automotive Systems pleads guilty to fixing price of auto parts
Staff Writer |
Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a criminal fine of at least $55.48 million for its role in a conspiracy.
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The conspiracy was to allocate markets, fix prices and rig bids for shock absorbers installed in automobiles sold to U.S. consumers, the Justice Department announced.
According to charges filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio today, from the mid-1990s until summer 2011 Tokyo-based Hitachi Automotive Systems agreed to allocate the supply of shock absorbers sold to targeted vehicle manufacturers.
To keep prices up, Hitachi Automotive Systems and its co-conspirators also agreed to coordinate on price adjustments requested by the vehicle manufacturers and strived to keep their conduct secret by using code names and meeting in remote locations.
In 2013, Hitachi pleaded guilty and paid a $195 million fine for fixing the price of starters, alternators and other electrical automotive components.
At that time, Hitachi received credit for substantially assisting the division’s investigation. But in the course of providing that assistance Hitachi failed to uncover that it had also conspired to fix the price of shock absorbers.
As a result, the division will recommend a substantial increase in Hitachi’s criminal fine from the bottom of the Guidelines fine range and also recommend that the court place Hitachi on probation for three years.
These recommendations are consistent with the division’s approach in cases where a company fails to uncover the entire scope of its illegal conduct at the time it enters into a plea agreement.
Hitachi Automotive Systems has agreed to cooperate with the division’s ongoing investigation. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.
Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.
Including Hitachi Automotive Systems, 46 companies and 64 executives have been charged in the division’s ongoing investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.8 billion in criminal fines. ■