Takata to pay $71.3 mln over seatbelt price-fix charges

Reuters

TOKYO, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Takata Corp will pay$71.3 million to settle antitrust charges brought by U.S.federal prosecutors over price fixing on seatbelts sold tocarmakers, the Japanese auto parts maker said on Thursday.

The proposed settlement is the latest in a long-runningprobe by antitrust enforcers in several countries into pricefixing of more than 30 types of car parts, including seat belts,radiators, windshield wipers, air-conditioning systems, powerwindow motors and power steering components.

Already, 20 companies and 21 executives have agreed to pleadguilty in the United States. The companies have agreed to pay$1.6 billion in fines overall.

A Takata executive in the United States, Gary Walker,previously agreed to plead guilty to price fixing, Takataconfirmed on Thursday. The U.S. Justice Department said lastmonth that in a plea agreement, Walker agreed to serve 14 monthsin U.S. prison and pay a $20,000 criminal fine.

Walker was director of sales when he retired from thecompany on July 31, 2012, Takata said in a emailed statement.

There is also fallout in Japan. Takata CEO Shigehisa Takadafaces a 30 percent cut in his compensation, while otherdirectors will suffer a 15 percent cut, the company said.

Takata Corp said it will take an extraordinary charge ofaround $72 million, or 7 billion yen, against its July-Septemberearnings. It currently expects a net profit of 14.5 billion yenfor the financial year ending March 2014.

The company released a statement in Tokyo. The U.S. JusticeDepartment, in the midst of a partial government shutdown, didnot respond to a request for comment.

Last month, the Justice Department said nine companies basedin Japan had agreed to plead guilty and to pay almost $745million in fines for their roles in long-running conspiracies tofix the prices of auto parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers.

The department said the parts were sold to a wide range ofU.S. automakers and U.S. subsidiaries of foreign automakers,including Fiat SpA affiliate Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co,Honda Motor Co Ltd, Mazda Motor Corp,Mitsubishi Motors Corp, Nissan Motor Co Ltd,Toyota Motor Corp and Subaru, which is owned by FujiHeavy Industries Ltd.

In some cases the price-fixing lasted for a decade orlonger. Parts company executives typically met face to face ortalked by phone to reach collusive agreements, the JusticeDepartment said last month.

"Every time we discover a conspiracy involving theautomotive industry, we seem to find another one," ScottHammond, of the department's Antitrust Division's criminalenforcement program, said in September.

Among the auto parts companies that the Antitrust Divisionhas settled with are Autoliv Inc, Tokai Rika Co Ltd, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki CoLtd, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd and Fujikura Ltd.

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