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From Antitrust Law Daily, May 14, 2015

Former auto exec indicted for conspiring to fix auto parts prices

By Peter Reap, J.D., LL.M.

Michitaka Sakuma, a former director and member of the board of directors of T.RAD Co., Ltd., was indicted today in the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division's auto parts cartel probe. A federal grand jury in Detroit returned a one-count indictment against Sakuma, charging him for his participation in a conspiracy to fix the prices of radiators sold to Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp., and certain of their subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere.

Sakuma participated in the conspiracy first as a general manager in charge of Toyota sales, and then as the executive managing director in charge of all sales at T.RAD.

The indictment alleges that beginning at least as early as October 2003 and continuing until at least February 2010, Sakuma and his co-conspirators participated in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of, radiators sold to Honda and Toyota.

T.RAD is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Japan with its principal place of business in Tokyo, Japan. On Nov. 12, 2013, T.RAD pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $13.75 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy. On Dec. 9, 2014, Kosei Tamura, the general manager in charge of Honda sales at T.RAD, pleaded guilty of participating in the same conspiracy and was sentenced to serve one year and one day in a U.S. prison.

Including Sakuma, 53 individuals have been charged in the government’s ongoing investigation into market allocation, price fixing, and bid rigging in the automotive parts industry. Additionally, 35 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines.

Sakuma is charged with price fixing and bid rigging in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine for an individual may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

“Today’s charge demonstrates that the Antitrust Division will continue to hold senior executives accountable for directing and authorizing subordinate employees to engage in criminal conduct,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Antitrust Division’s Criminal Enforcement Program. “Senior executives should expect that they will be pursued and prosecuted when they knowingly permit and direct collusive conduct to occur under their management.”

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