DETROIT (Legal Newsline) - Two Japanese suppliers of automotive electrical components have pleaded guilty and fined a total of $548 million for participating in price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracies for automobile parts sales to American manufacturers.

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday the fines against Yazaki Corporation and DENSO Corporation. The DOJ also said four executives, all Japanese nationals, also pleaded guilty and will sentenced to prison in the United States.

Yazaki will pay a $470 million criminal fine and DENSO $78 million. The Yazaki fine is the second largest criminal fine obtained for a Sherman Act antitrust violation fine.

The four executives from Yazaki-Tsuneaki Hanamura, Ryoji Kawai, Shigeru Ogawa and Hisamitsu Takada-will serve prison time ranging from 15 months to two years. The two-year sentences would be the longest term of imprisonment imposed on a foreign national for a Sherman Act antitrust violation. The fine amount and prison sentences are subject to court approval.

"As a result of the Antitrust Division's ongoing criminal investigation of price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry, more than $748 million in fines have been obtained-which already surpasses the total amount in criminal fines obtained by the division for all of last fiscal year," said Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division.

"Criminal antitrust enforcement remains a top priority and the Antitrust Division will continue to work with the FBI and our law enforcement counterparts to root out this kind of pernicious cartel conduct that results in higher prices to American consumers and businesses."

According to the announcement, the pleas were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit. According to court documents, Yazaki, DENSO, Hanamura, Kawai, Ogawa, Takada and their co-conspirators carried out the conspiracies by agreeing, during meetings and conversations, to allocate the supply of the named products on a model-by-model basis and to coordinate price adjustments requested by automobile manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere.

Yazaki conspired to rig bids to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of automotive wire harnesses and related products from 2000 through 2010; to do the same for the prices of instrument panel clusters from 2002 through 2010; and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of fuel senders from 2004 through 2010.

DENSO conspired to rig bids for and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of electronic control units and heater control panels sold to customers in the United States and elsewhere.

The four executives, Hanamura, Kawai, Ogawa and Takada conspired to rig bids for and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of automotive wire harnesses and related products sold to customers in the United States and elsewhere. DOJ said that the individuals participated in the conspiracies at various times from at least as early as January 2000, until at least February 2010.

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