U.S. takes action in two auto parts price-fixing cases

Reuters

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Three executives of Japan'sTakata Corp will plead guilty to conspiring to fix theprice of seatbelts sold to automakers in the United States andwill go to jail for 14 to 19 months, the Justice Department saidon Thursday.

Takata settled with the Justice Department in October,agreeing to pay $71.3 million to settle antitrust charges.

Separately, the government indicted two executives fromanother Japanese company on charges that they conspired to fixthe prices of rubber parts sold to Toyota.

The three Takata executives in the seatbelt case worked withcar makers such as Toyota Motor Corp and Subaru, whichis owned by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, Honda Motor CoLtd, Mazda Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, all of which purchased Takata seat belts.

One of the three executives, Yasuhiko Ueno, had worked for aTakata subsidiary in the United States, TK Holdings Inc, andwill serve 19 months in prison, the department said.

The other two, Saboro Imamiya and Yoshinobu Fujino,currently work for Takata in Japan. Imamiya will serve 16 monthsin prison while Fujino will serve 19 months, the departmentsaid.

In the second case, the Justice Department indicted Japanesenationals Masao Hayashi and Kenya Nonoyama on price-fixingcharges involving anti-vibration rubber parts like enginemounts.

The department declined to name the company that Hayashi andNonoyama worked for, saying only that they were employed by anOsaka-based company with subsidiaries in Franklin, Kentucky andWhite, Georgia.

Toyo Tire & Rubber Co Ltd is based in Osaka andlists operations in both U.S. cities on its website. MasaoHayashi is named as president of Toyo Automotive Parts (USA) in a 2010 news release. The company could not immediately bereached for comment.

The Justice Department and antitrust enforcers worldwidehave been probing price fixing of more than 30 car parts,including seatbelts, radiators, windshield wipers,air-conditioning systems, power window motors and power steeringcomponents.

Other companies which have purchased parts subject to pricefixing have been Fiat SpA affiliate Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co andMitsubishi Motors Corp.

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 has said.

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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