By Tobias J. Gillett, J.D., LL.M.
A Cleveland federal grand jury today returned an indictment against two executives of a Japan-based automotive parts supplier for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for certain automotive anti-vibration rubber parts sold to Toyota and installed in U.S. vehicles, the Justice Department has announced. Separately, the Department revealed that three executives from Japan-based seatbelt manufacturer Takata Corp. have agreed to plead guilty to Justice Department charges that they participated in a conspiracy to fix prices for seatbelts sold in the United States.
Indictment. The indictment filed yesterday in the federal district court in Toledo charges Japanese nationals Masao Hayashi and Kenya Nonoyama with engaging in a conspiracy from at least March 1996 until at least December 2008 to allocate the supply of, rig bids for, and fix prices of the anti-vibration parts, including engine mounts and suspension bushings, sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., and affiliated companies. The parts were installed in Toyota Corolla, Avalon, Tacoma, Camry, Tundra, Sequoia, Rav4, Sienna, Venza, and Highlander models for purposes of reducing road and engine vibration.
“Today’s indictment reaffirms the Antitrust Division’s commitment to hold executives accountable for actions that corrupt the competitive landscape and harm consumers,” said Renata B. Hesse, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division continues to work closely with its fellow competition enforcers abroad to ensure that there are no safe harbors for executives who engage in international cartel crimes.”
The executives are charged with violations of the Sherman Act, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by its victims, if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
Plea agreements. The one-count felony charges filed separately today against each Takata executive in the federal district court in Detroit allege that Yasuhiki Ueno, SaburoImamiya, and Yoshinobu Fujino participated in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for seatbelts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Mazda Motor Corp., and Fuji Heavy Industries Inc., more commonly known as Subaru.
Ueno served as senior vice president for sales to Japanese manufacturers at Takata’s Auburn Hills, Michigan subsidiary TK Holdings Inc. from at least January 2006 through December 2007, and as deputy division director, and later director, of Takata’s customer relations division in Japan from at least January 2006 until at least February 2011. Ueno allegedly participated in the conspiracy from at least January 2006 until at least February 2011. Ueno has agreed to serve 19 months in a U.S. prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
Imamiya served in Japan as Takata’s general manager for sales to Toyota from at least January 2008 until July 2009, and as director of the customer relations division from July 2009 until at least February 2011. Imamiya allegedly participated in the conspiracy from at least January 2008 until at least February 2011. Imamiya has agreed to serve 16 months in a U.S. prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
Fujino served in Japan as Takata’s manager of the Toyota group within the customer relations division from at least January 2004 until June 2005, as manager of the Mazda group within the customer relations division from June 2005 through the end of 2007, and as TK Holdings’ assistant vice president for sales to Japanese manufacturers from the beginning of 2008 until at least February 2011. Fujino allegedly participated in the conspiracy from at least January 2004 until at least February 2011. Fujino has agreed to serve 14 months in a U.S. prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
On October 9, 2013, Takata Corp. agreed to plead guilty to charges that it conspired to rig bids for seat belts sold to automobile manufacturers, and to pay $71.3 million in fines. The one-count felony charge in the information filed against Takata by the Department of Justice alleged that Takata participated in the bid rigging conspiracy from approximately 2003 through February 2011. Takata and others allegedly agreed on bids and price quotations to be submitted to auto makers and agreed to allocate the supply of seat belts to those manufacturers. On September 26, 2013, TK Holdings executive Gary Walker agreed to plead guilty to charges that he participated in the conspiracy, and to serve 14 months in prison and pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
The Justice Department’s charges today brings the number of individuals charged in the Department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry to 26, with 21 corporations also charged.
Companies: Takata Corp.
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