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From Antitrust Law Daily, February 12, 2014

Koito, Toyo Tire sentenced in U.S. auto parts probe

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd., a Japanese manufacturer of automotive lighting fixtures, was sentenced on February 11 after pleading guilty to participating in price fixing conspiracies in the auto parts industries. A few days earlier, Japan-based Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. was sentenced for its admitted participation in separate conspiracies to fix the prices for auto parts (U.S. v. Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Case: 2:14-cr-20021; U.S. v. Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd., Case 3:13-cr-00529-JJH).

Koito was fined $56.6 million for engaging 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, according to the January 16 charge filed in the federal district court in Detroit. 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.

The federal district court in Toledo fined Toyo Tire $120 million on February 6, after the company pleaded guilty to charges that it conspired to allocate sales of, to rig bids for, and to fix the prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts and automotive constant-velocity-joint boots. Automotive anti-vibration rubber parts are comprised primarily of rubber and metal and include engine mounts and suspension bushings. They are installed in automobiles for the purpose of reducing road and engine vibration. Automotive constant-velocity-joint boots are composed of rubber or plastic and are used to cover the constant-velocity-joints of an automobile to protect the joints from contaminants.

Attorneys: Franklin R. Liss and Tiana Russell (Arnold & Porter LLP) for Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Scott Lassar (Sidley Austin LLP) for Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.

Companies: Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd.; Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.

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