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


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 to carmakers, the Japanese auto parts maker said on Thursday.

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

Already, 20 companies and 21 executives have agreed to plead guilty 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, Takata confirmed on Thursday. The U.S. Justice Department said last month that in a plea agreement, Walker agreed to serve 14 months in U.S. prison and pay a $20,000 criminal fine.

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

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

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

The company released a statement in Tokyo. The U.S. Justice Department, in the midst of a partial government shutdown, did not respond to a request for comment.

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

The department said the parts were sold to a wide range of U.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 Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.

In some cases the price-fixing lasted for a decade or longer. Parts company executives typically met face to face or talked by phone to reach collusive agreements, the Justice Department said last month.

"Every time we discover a conspiracy involving the automotive industry, we seem to find another one," Scott Hammond, of the department's Antitrust Division's criminal enforcement program, said in September.

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