2 auto parts executives indicted for obstruction

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

The Justice Department said Wednesday a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted two automotive parts industry executives with conspiring to obstruct a federal investigation.

The indictments of Futoshi Higashida and Mikio Katsumaru are the latest in the government’s wide-ranging price fixing and bid-rigging probe into the auto parts sector. To date, 65 individuals and 47 companies have been charged in the Antitrust Division’s investigations into the automotive parts industry.

According to the indictment, the defendants, along with their co-conspirators, conspired from at least as early as June 2008 until at least September 2012 to delete emails and electronic records and to destroy documents referring to communications with competitors.

In addition, according to the indictment, Higashida instructed another individual in September 2012 to ensure that no phone numbers or call records remained on his cellphone and that no data remained on his computer that would reflect competitor communications.

“Individuals will not escape prosecution by covering up or destroying evidence of their own or their company’s wrong-doing,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in a release on Wednesday. “Obstructing a federal antitrust investigation — criminal or civil — is a serious criminal violation that the Antitrust Division will vigorously pursue.”

Katsumaru was employed by Nishikawa Rubber Co. in Japan. Higashida worked there and in Novi as president of that company’s U.S. joint venture, Nishikawa Cooper LLC.

Higashida is also charged with attempted obstruction of justice.

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 by this illegal conduct.

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.

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Twitter: @MikeWayland