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Japanese companies feature in US$2.4 billion fines

WASHINGTON, DC: Notwithstanding Deutsche Bahn's apparent attempt to bankrupt a large part of the cargo airline industry for alleged cartel practices, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) remains pre-eminent in its ability to extract cash from corporations after collecting US$2.4 billion from 30 companies involved in price fixing automotive parts.

Toyo Tire  Rubber girlsWith fines totalling US$1.86 billion in the 12 months to last September, the DoJ's largest haul was US$425 million from the Japanese Bridgestone Corporation – the fourth highest fine in the department's history.

The four other top positions were also occupied by Japanese companies with Hitachi Automotive Systems in second place with a US$195 million penalty, followed by a US$190 million payment from Mitsubishi Electric, US$120 million from Toyo Tire & Rubber and US$103.2 million from JTEKT Corp.

The DoJ also jailed 21 people with average sentences of 26 months in connection with the cartel scheme.

"The size of these penalties is an unfortunate reminder of the powerful temptation to cheat the American consumer and profit from collusion," commented assistant attorney general Bill Baer. "We remain committed to ensuring that corporations and individuals who collude face serious consequences for their crimes."

The latest to plead guilty is Sanden, an automotive parts manufacturer based in Gunma, Japan. The company has agreed to add to the DoJ tally by paying US$3.2 million for its role in conspiring to eliminate competition in the purchase of compressors used in air conditioning systems by Nissan for vehicles made in the U.S.

The DoJ said Sanden held meetings with other conspirators to fix price quotations to Nissan between August 2008 and April 2009.

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