WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in San Francisco returned a superseding indictment yesterday against a Taiwan aftermarket auto lights manufacturer, its U.S.-based subsidiary distributor and its chairman for participating in an international conspiracy to fix the prices of aftermarket auto lights, the Department of Justice announced. Aftermarket auto lights are incorporated into an automobile after its original sale, often as repairs following a collision or as accessories and upgrades.
The one-count felony superseding indictment, filed today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, charges that Eagle Eyes Traffic Industrial Co. Ltd., which is based in Tainan County, Taiwan, participated in a conspiracy to fix the prices of aftermarket auto lights in the United States and elsewhere from about July 2001 to about September 2008. The indictment also charges Eagle Eyes’ highest-ranking officer, Chairman Yu-Chu Lin, aka David Lin, for his participation in the conspiracy from about July 2001 to about September 2008. Lin is a resident of Taiwan. E-Lite Automotive Inc., Eagle Eyes’ U.S. subsidiary based in Chino, Calif., is also charged in the indictment for its participation in the conspiracy from about March 2006 to about September 2008. Today’s indictment supersedes an indictment filed on July 19, 2011, against the second-highest-ranking officer of Eagle Eyes, Vice Chairman Homy Hong-Ming Hsu.
“The Antitrust Division will continue to crack down on international price-fixing conspiracies that target U.S. businesses and consumers,” said Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
According to the indictment, Eagle Eyes, E-Lite, Lin, Hsu and co-conspirators participated in a conspiracy in which the participants met and agreed to charge prices of aftermarket auto lights according to jointly determined formulas. The participants in that conspiracy issued list price announcements to customers in accordance with the jointly determined price structure, and collected and exchanged information on prices for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the conspiracy. The department said that the conspirators met in Taiwan and the United States for their discussions.
Including Eagle Eyes, E-Lite and Lin, four companies and four individuals have been charged to date in connection with the department’s ongoing investigation into the aftermarket auto lights industry. On Nov. 15, 2011, Maxzone Vehicle Lighting Corp., a U.S. distributor of aftermarket auto lights, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $43 million criminal fine for its participation in the conspiracy. On Oct. 4, 2011, Sabry Lee (U.S.A.) Inc., a U.S. distributor of aftermarket auto lights, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $200,000 criminal fine for its participation in the conspiracy. On March 29, 2011, Polo Shu-Sheng Hsu, the former president and CEO of Maxzone, was sentenced to serve 180 days in prison and to pay a $25,000 criminal fine for his role in the conspiracy. Chien Chung Chen, aka Andrew Chen, the former executive vice president of Sabry Lee, pleaded guilty for his participation in the conspiracy on June 7, 2011. He is currently scheduled to be sentenced on July 17, 2012.
Eagle Eyes, E-Lite and Lin are charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals and $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fines may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
This case is part of an ongoing joint investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI in San Francisco. Anyone with information concerning illegal or anticompetitive conduct in the aftermarket auto lights industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Field Office at 415-436-6660 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.