Former Japanese auto parts exec indicted in Detroit

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A federal grand jury in Detroit, Thursday, handed up a one-count indictment charging a former top official of a Japanese auto supplier with bid rigging and price fixing — the latest executive snared in the Justice Department’s long running probe.

The indictment charges Michitaka Sakuma, a former director and member of the board of directors of T.RAD Co. Ltd., with conspiring to fix the prices of radiators sold to Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

“Today’s charge demonstrates that the Antitrust Division will continue to hold senior executives accountable for directing and authorizing subordinate employees to engage in criminal conduct,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Antitrust Division’s Criminal Enforcement Program. “Senior executives should expect that they will be pursued and prosecuted when they knowingly permit and direct collusive conduct to occur under their management.”

Sakuma participated in the conspiracy first as a general manager in charge of Toyota sales and then as the executive managing director in charge of all sales.

The indictment alleges that starting in October 2003 and continuing until at least February 2010, Sakuma and co-conspirators participated in meetings to rig bids, allocate supply and fix the price of radiators sold to Honda and Toyota.

Tokyo-based T.RAD pleaded guilty in 2013 and agreed to pay a $13.75 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy. On Dec. 9, 2014, Kosei Tamura, the general manager in charge of Honda sales at T.RAD, pleaded guilty of participating in the same conspiracy and was sentenced to serve one year and one day in a U.S. prison.

Including Sakuma, 53 individuals have been charged in the government’s ongoing investigation and 35 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines.

In 2013, the Justice Department said the international price fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts served to U.S. car manufacturers; in total, more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected.

Auto supplier price-fixing is being investigated by officials in the U.S., Europe, Australia, South Korea, Japan and Canada. A Justice Department investigation first came to light with search warrants executed by the FBI in early 2010 at the Metro Detroit U.S. headquarters of three Japanese suppliers.

Numerous suits have been filed by automakers, dealers and owners against companies involved in the price fixing and a handful of settlements have been announced.