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From Antitrust Law Daily, January 16, 2014

Automobile parts maker agrees to pay $56.6 million in U.S. price fixing probe

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd., a Japanese manufacturer of automotive lighting fixtures, was charged today by the U.S. Department of Justice with conspiring to fix prices. Koito has agreed to plead guilty to the charges and to pay a total of $56.6 million in criminal fines, under a plea agreement that is subject to court approval (U.S. v. Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Case: 2:14-cr-20021).

According to the two-count felony charge filed in the federal district court in Detroit, Koito engaged in two separate conspiracies to rig bids for, and to fix the prices of: (1) automobile lighting fixtures and (2) automotive high-intensity discharge (HID) lamp ballasts. Koito’s involvement in the conspiracy to fix prices of automotive lighting fixtures lasted from about June 1997 until about July 2011, and its involvement in the lamp ballasts conspiracy lasted from as early as July 1998 until at least February 2010, the government alleged.

Automotive lighting fixtures include automobile headlamps, as well as rear combination lamp assemblies that are used to signal braking, reversing direction, and turning. HID lamp ballasts regulate the electrical current used to ignite and control the electrical arc that generates the light emitted by an automotive HID headlamp fixture.

Koito is the 24th corporation to agree to resolve charges in Justice Department’s investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry, according to the government’s announcement of the charges. Under the plea agreement, Koito has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing probe.

“The conspirators engaged in long-term conspiracies to fix the prices of essential components used in the production of automobiles,” said Brent Snyder, the Antitrust Division’s new Deputy Assistant Attorney General for criminal enforcement. “Today’s criminal fine demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s continued commitment to hold companies accountable for collusive behavior that impacts American consumers.”

In addition to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has scrutinized Koito’s conduct. The JFTC levied a $36 million fine against the company last year. The company also is a defendant in a number of private antitrust lawsuits brought in the United States by dealers and other purchasers of automotive lights.

Companies: Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

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