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Gov: Bridgestone agrees to plead guilty

WASHINGTON — Bridgestone Corp. has agreed to plead guilty in a price-fixing conspiracy and pay a $425 million criminal fine in a Justice Department investigation that has swept the automotive parts industry.

Twenty-six companies including Tokyo-based Bridgestone have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the Justice Department’s ongoing probe into price fixing and bid rigging. The companies have agreed to pay more than $2 billion in criminal fines. Twenty-eight people have been charged.

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According to a one-count felony charge in federal court in Toledo, Ohio, Bridgestone participated in allocating sales, rigging bids, and raising prices of automotive antivibration rubber parts sold to car manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere.

Bridgestone sold the parts to Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corp., and Isuzu Motors Ltd.

The Justice Department says Bridgestone has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing auto parts investigations. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

Bridgestone’s role in the conspiracy surfaced in October 2011, when the company pleaded guilty and paid a $28 million fine for price-fixing and for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the marine hose industry.

On Thursday, the Justice Department said Bridgestone did not disclose at the time of this guilty plea that it had also participated in the antivibration rubber parts conspiracy. Bridgestone’s failure to disclose the earlier conspiracy was a factor in determining the $425 million fine, the department said.

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