A Cleveland federal grand jury returned an indictment against one current executive and two former executives of Bridgestone Corp. for their roles in an international conspiracy to fix prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.
The indictment, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo, charges Yoshiyuki Tanaka, Yasuo Ryuto and Isao Yoshida, all Japanese nationals, with participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to allocate sales of, to rig bids for, and to fix, raise and maintain the prices of anti-vibration rubber parts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. – more commonly known by its brand name, Subaru – and certain of their subsidiaries, affiliates and suppliers, in the United States and elsewhere.
“Today’s indictment again demonstrates that antitrust violations are not just corporate offenses but also crimes by individuals,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “The division will continue to vigorously prosecute executives who circumvent the law in order to maximize profits by harming consumers.”
Tanaka was employed by Bridgestone in various positions involving anti-vibration rubber parts sales, including manager at Bridgestone and executive vice-president at Bridgestone’s U.S. subsidiary Bridgestone APM Co., from approximately 1991 through at least February 2011. He is currently manager of the anti-vibration rubber original equipment international planning section. Ryuto was employed by Bridgestone in various positions involving anti-vibration rubber parts sales, including general manager and director, from approximately 1991 through at least June 2008; he is no longer employed by the company. Yoshida was employed by Bridgestone in various positions involving anti-vibration rubber parts sales, including manager and general manager, from approximately 1997 through at least September 2008 ; he is no longer employed by the company.
The indictment alleges that Tanaka, Ryuto, Yoshida and their co-conspirators conducted meetings and communications in Japan to reach collusive agreements regarding the sale of automotive anti-vibration rubber products to automakers in the United States and elsewhere. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy involved agreements affecting the Tacoma, Camry, Tundra, Sequoia, Corolla, Sienna, Venza and Highlander. According to the indictment, Tanaka participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as January 2004 until at least June 2008; Ryuto participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as April 2001 until at least May 29, 2008; and Yoshida participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as January 2001 until at least July 2008.
Bridgestone manufactures and sells a variety of automotive parts, including anti-vibration rubber parts, which are comprised primarily of rubber and metal, and are installed in suspension systems and engine mounts as well as other parts of an automobile. They are installed in automobiles for the purpose of reducing road and engine vibration. On Feb. 13, 2014, Bridgestone agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $425 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy.
To date, 32 individuals have been charged in the government’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Additionally, 26 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.29 billion in fines.
Each of the individuals is charged with price fixing and bid rigging in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine for an individual 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.
Today’s charges are the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by each of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI. These cases were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to other products in the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office at 216-522-1400.