WASHINGTON—A Japanese manufacturer of rubber anti-vibration auto parts is among 20 auto parts manufacturing companies that have pleaded guilty to price fixing in an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd. pleaded guilty Sept. 26 in Toledo federal district court to one count of conspiring to rig bids and fix prices for anti-vibration rubber components it sold in the U.S. and elsewhere to Honda Motor Co. Ltd., American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Suzuki Motor Corp. The company agreed to pay an $11 million fine.
Also indicted in the Toledo court that day was Tetsuya Kunida, described by the DOJ as "a former executive of a Japan-based automotive anti-vibration rubber products supplier." Kunida pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to rig bids and fix prices. He agreed to pay a $20,000 fine and serve 12 months and one day in a U.S. prison.
Although the DOJ did not name Kunida's former company, Yamashita is the only rubber anti-vibration parts manufacturer to date to be named as a conspirator in the investigation. Its wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary is YUSA Corp., which is based in Washington Court House, Ohio.
Hiroshi Yoshida, another former executive of a rubber anti-vibration parts manufacturer, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy before the Toledo court on Oct. 30, 2012. Yoshida also agreed to pay a $20,000 fine and serve a year and a day in prison.
Yoshida's former company was not named in the indictment, but two local Ohio newspapers identified his company as YUSA.
The DOJ fined nine Japanese auto parts companies and two executives more than $740 million in the latest round of indictments, filed Sept. 26 before the federal district courts in Toledo, Detroit and Cincinnati.
Also fined in the Sept. 26 court actions were:
• Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd., $195 million;
• Jtekt Corp., $103.27 million;
• Mitsuba Corp., $135 million;
• Mitsubishi Electric Corp., $190 million;
• Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., $14.5 million;
• NSK Ltd., $68.2 million;
• T.RAD Co. Ltd., $13.75 million; and
• Valeo Japan Co. Ltd., $13.6 million.
Gary Walker, described as a former executive of a U.S. subsidiary of a Japan-based firm, pleaded guilty to one count and agreed to pay a $20,000 fine and serve 14 months in a U.S. prison.
So far, the DOJ has levied more than $1.6 billion in criminal fines in this investigation, which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the largest in the history of the DOJ's Antitrust Division.
The investigation covers price fixing and bid rigging in more than 30 different auto parts in a conspiracy covering at least a decade, according to Holder. The conspiracy caused U.S. auto makers to overpay for more than $5 billion worth of auto parts that went into more than 25 million vehicles, he said.
Among the brands affected were General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Subaru, according to Holder.
Charged and fined in earlier court actions were Swedish firm Autoliv Inc. and TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, as well as Japanese firms DENSO Corp.; Nippon Seiki Ltd.; Tokai Rika Co. Ltd.; Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd.; Yazaki Corp.; G.S. Electech Inc.; Fujukura Ltd.; Diamond Electric Mfg. Co. Ltd.; and Panasonic Corp.
Twenty-one auto parts company executives have been charged in the investigation, DOJ said. Of these, 17 have either been sentenced to prison or entered into plea agreements calling for prison sentences, it said.
YUSA Corp. did not respond to telephone calls made to its Washington Court House headquarters. DOJ officials could not be reached because of the government shutdown that began Oct. 1.