In an expanding global antitrust investigation, nine Japanese auto suppliers, along with two former executives, have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and pay more than $740 million in criminal fines for fixing the price of auto parts sold in the United States and abroad, the Justice Department said Thursday.
More than a dozen conspiracies involving more than 30 kinds of parts affected sales to Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, as well as the US subsidiaries of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.
“These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to US car manufacturers,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “In total, more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the illegal conduct.”
The two former executives — Gary Walker, an American, and Tetsuya Kunida, a Japanese national working for US subsidiaries of Japanese companies — also pleaded guilty for their involvement in the scheme, in which executives met in person and colluded on the phone to rig bids, fix prices, and allocate the supply of parts, the Justice Department said.
Kunida was sentenced to 12 months and a day in a US prison.
He pleaded guilty to a felony charge of fixing the price of products sold to Toyota and other automakers from at least November 2001 until May 2012.
Walker was sentenced to 14 months. The Justice Department said he engaged in a conspiracy to fix the prices of seat belts sold to Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota from at least Jan. 1, 2003, through February 2010.
Each man is to pay a $20,000 fine.
General Motors called the price fixing among suppliers unacceptable.
“We are greatly concerned by the large number of suppliers in the automotive supplier sector who have pled guilty to serious criminal price-fixing charges,” the automaker said in a statement.
Ford said it was monitoring the investigation and would not comment further.
Toyota said in a statement that it “expects its suppliers to provide the company with quality parts at competitive prices, while complying with all applicable laws in the markets where they do business.”
It also said: “We are committed to supporting free and fair competition among suppliers, and we have code of conduct guidelines in place that we expect suppliers to meet. We take any violations of these guidelines seriously.”