ATLANTA—A former key accounts manager for supplier Continental Automotive Korea Ltd. pleaded guilty for his role in rigging the prices of instrument panel clusters in the U.S., the Department of Justice said March 10.
Eun Soo Kim, a Korean citizen who was a fugitive for nearly five years, was arrested by German authorities in Frankfurt in September 2019. He agreed to extradition and arrived in Atlanta on Feb. 28, the department said.
Kim appeared March 9 before U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten in federal court. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to allocate sales of instrument panel clusters, rigging the prices and submitting rigged and noncompetitive bids for the panel clusters sold to Korean auto makers and their subsidiaries, the department said.
Kim was sentenced to nine months in prison and will pay a criminal fine of $130,000.
In 2014, Continental Automotive Korea and Continental Automotive Electronics—both South Korean subsidiaries of German parent company Continental A.G.—pleaded guilty to rigging the prices of instrument panel clusters and were ordered to pay a criminal fine of $4 million.
The panels were sold to Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia for more than eight years. Kim participated in the conspiracy from as early as February 2008 until May 2012, the department said.
"Eun Soo Kim left the company shortly after Continental learned of the allegations," Continental said in a statement released March 10. "The company is committed to zero tolerance and the highest levels of integrity in all areas of its business. Since the start of the investigation, Continental has fully cooperated with the Department of Justice. Additionally, Continental has intensified its compliance efforts and measures in the area of the prevention of antitrust law violations."
Automotive News has reached out to Hyundai for comment. A spokesman for Kia Motors deferred a request for comment to the Seoul headquarters.
The longtime federal antitrust crackdown on price fixing, bid rigging and "other anticompetitive conduct" in the automotive parts industry has led to charges against more than 100 companies and executives, the department said. So far, more than $2.9 billion in criminal fines have been imposed and 32 individuals have been sentenced to prison.
"Today's guilty plea further demonstrates our commitment at the antitrust division and shows that neither time nor distance provide refuge for executives who conspire to cheat American consumers," Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's antitrust division, said in a statement.
"The antitrust division will leave no stone unturned including working with enforcers around the world to bring justice to those who infect international markets with collusion," he said.