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From Antitrust Law Daily, September 15, 2016

Japanese lock and key maker to pay a $9M fine for role in auto parts bid rigging conspiracy

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

ALPHA Corporation is the latest company to be charged in the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation of the automobile parts industry. Today, the Japan-based manufacturer of lock and key products was named in a one-count felony charge filed in the federal district court in Detroit. According to the charge, ALPHA conspired to fix prices and rig bids for automotive access mechanisms sold to Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and certain of its subsidiaries. ALPHA has agreed to pay a $9 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy (U.S. v. ALPHA Corp., Case No. 2:16-cr-20627-MAG-MKM).

The action is apparently the first to challenge a conspiracy involving access mechanisms. Access mechanisms consist of inside and outside door handles, tailgate or trunk handles, keys, lock sets (also called key sets), door locks, and electrical and mechanical steering column locks, according to the Justice Department.

The challenged conduct took place between 2002 and September 2011. ALPHA’s co-conspirators were not identified; however, the charge states that the "defendant and its co-conspirators manufactured certain Access Mechanisms: (a) in the United States and elsewhere for interstate sales within and for export to the United States for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold within the United States; and (b) in Japan and elsewhere for installation in vehicles exported to and sold in the United States."

Including ALPHA, 46 companies and 64 executives have been charged in the Antitrust Division’s investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.8 billion in criminal fines, the government announced today. The conspiracies have involved various auto parts. Just last month, Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd. agreed to plead guilty to charges that it conspired to allocate markets, fix prices, and rig bids for shock absorbers. The company agreed to pay a $55.48 million fine for its role in the conspiracy.

Companies: ALPHA Corp.; Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.

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