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From Antitrust Law Daily, September 19, 2014

Seven more executives indicted for role in auto parts conspiracy

By Greg Hammond, J.D.

As part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, a federal grand jury in Detroit has returned two indictments against seven executives from manufacturers Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (MELCO) and Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. The executives are accused of participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of various automotive parts.

In its first three-count indictment, the Department of Justice alleged: (1) MELCO executives Atsushi Ueda, Minoru Kurisaki, and Hideyuki Saito conspired to fix prices of alternators, ignition coils, and starter motors sold to various motor companies in the United States; (2) Kurisaki and Saito knowingly conspired to obstruct justice by destroying documents and "corruptly persuading," or attempting to persuade other employees to destroy documents; and (3) Saito knowingly and corruptly persuaded, and attempted to persuade, other executives to destroy documents and delete electronic data that might contain evidence of antitrust crimes committed in the United States and abroad. Saito is the only defendant that is still currently a high-level manager with MELCO.

The Department’s second indictment alleges that Hitachi executives Takashi Toyokuni, Ken Funasaki, Kazunobu Tsunekawa, and Tomiya Itakura conspired to fix the prices of air flow meters, alternators, electronic throttle bodies, fuel injection systems, ignition coils, inverters, motor generators, starter motors, and valve timing control devises sold to a number of motor companies in the United States and abroad. All four of the executives still serve in senior management positions with Hitachi.

"Protecting American consumers from anticompetitive practices is our top priority," stated Antitrust Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder. "The Antitrust Division will continue to pursue the auto parts makers and executives who engaged in this blatant and harmful criminal scheme."

The Antitrust Division alleges that the conspiracy existed from January 2000 until February 2010. Both MELCO and Hitachi previously pleaded guilty for their involvement in the conspiracies, and were sentenced to pay criminal fines of $190 million and $195 million, respectively. To date, 43 individuals have been charged in the government’s investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the auto parts industry. Twenty six individuals and 28 companies have pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty, and have collectively agreed to pay over $2.4 billion in fines.

The seven executives at MELCO and Hitachi have been charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine. However, the fine could be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum. Further, the executives charged with obstruction of justice face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine.

Companies: Mitsubishi Electric Corp.; Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd.

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust

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