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From Antitrust Law Daily, October 11, 2013

Seat belt maker agrees to $71.3 million fine in U.S. auto parts bid rigging probe

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Japanese seat belt manufacturer Takata Corporation has agreed to plead guilty to charges that it conspired to rig bids for seat belts sold to automobile manufacturers. Yesterday, the company announced that it would pay $71.3 million in fines under a plea agreement. A one-count felony charge was filed by the Department of Justice in the federal district court in Detroit on October 9 (U.S. v. Takata Corp., Case No. 2:13-cr-20741-LPZ-MAR).

The government alleges that Takata participated in the bid rigging conspiracy from approximately 2003 through February 2011. Takata and others allegedly agreed on bids and price quotations to be submitted to auto makers and agreed to allocate the supply of seat belts to those manufacturers. Takata sold seatbelts to Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru), according to the information.

The case against Takata comes less than a month after a former executive of the company’s U.S. subsidiary was charged for his role in conspiring to drive up prices for seat belts sold to auto makers. The executive, Gary Walker, agreed to serve 14 months in prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine, the Justice Department announced on September 26.

Takata and its subsidiaries have cooperated fully with the Justice Department’s investigation since February 2011, according to the company’s statement. Takata is required to continue cooperating with the government, under the terms of its plea agreement.

More than 20 companies have now been charged in the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the auto parts industry.

The charge against Takata was signed by Terrell McSweeny, serving as Acting Assistant Attorney General. Generally, charges are signed by the assistant attorney general—William Baer—and/or the deputy assistant attorney general for criminal enforcement—Scott Hammond. Hammond resigned from the Antitrust Division effective October 1. McSweeny, who has served as chief counsel for competition policy and intergovernmental relations at the Antitrust Division, is the President’s nominee to fill a current vacancy on the FTC.

Companies: Takata Corp.

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