A Japanese manufacturer of instrument panel clusters is the latest to feel the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice, albeit getting off rather lightly in comparison with its fellow Japanese miscreants. Japan-based Nippon Seiki Co. (Nagoka) was fined $1 million for its role in a price-fixing conspiracy that lasted from at least as early as April 2008 until at least February 2010.
According to a statement on its website, Nippon Seiki said it would cut executive level salaries by 15-20% for a period of two months to punish management for the episode. It also stated that it had prepared a manual and would require its management to undergo continued training in order to prevent a recurrence.
According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Nippon Seiki engaged in conspiracies to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of instrument panel clusters sold to an automaker in the United States and elsewhere.
Nippon Seiki manufactures and sells a variety of automotive parts, including instrument panel clusters. The department said that Nippon Seiki and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing, during meetings and conversations, to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of instrument panel clusters, sold to an automaker in the United States and elsewhere, on a model-by-model basis. As part of the plea agreement, which will be subject to court approval, Nippon Seiki has agreed to cooperate with the department’s investigation.
“For nearly two years, Nippon Seiki conspired to sell instrument control panels at collusive and noncompetitive prices, affecting the prices of many automobiles sold in the United States,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “The division will continue to hold companies accountable for these types of anticompetitive practices that harm American consumers.”
Including Nippon Seiki, eight companies and 11 executives have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Furukawa Electric, Denso, Yazaki, G.S. Electec, Fujikura, and Autoliv Inc. pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay a total of more than $785 million in criminal fines. In July 2012, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH agreed to plead guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Additionally, seven of the individuals—Junichi Funo, Hirotsugu Nagata, Tetsuya Ukai, Tsuneaki Hanamura, Ryoki Kawai, Shigeru Ogawa and Hisamitsu Takada—have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each. Makoto Hattori and Norihiro Imai have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Kazuhiko Kashimoto and Toshio Sudo have also agreed to plead guilty.