The Justice Department said a 24th auto supplier, Tokyo-based Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd., has agreed to plead guilty in the ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging by auto suppliers.
The government said Koito will pay $56.6 million in criminal fines for its role in fixing the prices of automobile lighting fixtures and lamp ballasts sold in the United States and around the globe. Koito has also agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing auto parts investigations.
“The conspirators engaged in long-term conspiracies to fix the prices of essential components used in the production of automobiles,” said Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division’s Criminal Enforcement Program. “Today’s criminal fine demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s continued commitment to hold companies accountable for collusive behavior that impacts American consumers.”
Including Koito, the 24 suppliers have agreed to pay a total of more than $1.8 billion in fines. Additionally, 26 individuals have been charged and most have pleaded guilty.
About 25 million cars sold in the U.S. since 2003 were affected; the government has said Detroit’s Big Three and major Japanese automakers are among the victims.
The Justice Department investigation came to light with search warrants executed by the FBI in early 2010 at the Metro Detroit U.S. headquarters of three Japanese suppliers.
According to the charges, Koito and its co-conspirators sold the lighting fixtures and ballasts at noncompetitive prices to automakers in the United States and elsewhere from at least as early as June 1997 until about July 2011.
Koito makes automotive lighting fixtures, which include automobile headlights and rear combination light assemblies that signal braking, backing up and turning. Koito also manufactures and sells ballasts used in high-intensity discharge headlights.