Company Agrees to Pay $35.8 Million Criminal Fine
WASHINGTON — Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., an automotive parts manufacturer based in Kariya, Japan, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $35.8 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to allocate customers of variable valve timing (VVT) devices sold to automobile manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis, Aisin conspired to allocate customers of VVT devices sold to various automobile manufacturers, including General Motors Company, Nissan Motor Company Ltd., Volvo Car Corporation and BMW AG, in the United States and elsewhere. In addition to the criminal fine, Aisin has agreed to cooperate in the department’s ongoing investigation. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.
“Today’s charge continues the Antitrust Division’s ongoing campaign to hold automobile part suppliers accountable for their illegal collusive conduct,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “The division continues to vigorously prosecute companies and individuals that seek to maximize their profits through illegal, anticompetitive means.”
The department said that Aisin and its co-conspirators held meetings and conversations to discuss and agree upon the customers to whom each would sell VVT devices, and the bids and price quotations each would submit for VVT devices. Aisin’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from as early as September 2000 until at least February 2010.
VVT devices are installed in automobile engines and regulate the timing, extent, and duration of the opening of the engine’s intake and exhaust valves, thereby increasing fuel economy and engine performance.
Including Aisin, 31 companies and 46 individuals have been charged in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the automotive parts industry. All 31 companies have either pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion in criminal fines. Of the 46 individuals, 26 have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons or have entered into plea agreements calling for significant prison sentences.
Aisin is charged with allocating customers in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI. Today’s charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office and Bloomington Resident Agency, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to other products in the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1–888–647–3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office at 317-595-4000, or the FBI’s Bloomington Resident Agency at 812-332-9275.