Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Japanese auto executives charged with price-fixing

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US charged seven Japanese executives with price-fixing on Thursday in a long-running probe into illegal practices in the automobile parts industry.

Three executives from Mitsubishi Electric Corp were accused by a federal grand jury of conspiring to set the prices of starter motors, alternators and ignition coils sold to top US manufacturers and US-based Japanese manufacturers, from at least 2000 through 2010.

Another four executives from Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd were similarly charged over price-fixing involving a number of parts sold to US automakers including starter motors, fuel injection systems and ignition coils.

Both groups of executives were alleged to have directed and participated in efforts with others in the industry to set prices and rig bids for supply contracts.

Each of the seven faces up to 10 years in prison and a US$1 million fine, with the possibility of doubling the fine if the gain from the crime or the loss suffered by the victim is seen to be higher than US$1 million.

In the same cases both Mitsubishi Electric and Hitachi Automotive pleaded guilty to criminal price-fixing charges last year, and were fined US$190 million and US$195 million respectively.

Over the past several years US justice authorities have fined 28 companies, mostly Japanese, more than US$2.4 billion in the ongoing probe into bid-rigging and price-fixing in the parts industry.

In addition, 43 individuals have been charged, and 26 have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to one and two-year prison terms.

“Protecting US consumers from anti-competitive practices is our top priority,” Brent Snyder of the US Justice Department’s antitrust unit said in a statement.

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