Extradited Former Automotive Parts Executive Pleads Guilty to Antitrust Charge
Fugitive for Nearly Five Years, Extradited to the United States and Pleads Guilty to Antitrust Conspiracy
Eun Soo Kim, a former key accounts manager for Continental Automotive Korea Ltd. and a Korean national, was extradited from Germany and pleaded guilty for his role in an international market allocation and bid-rigging conspiracy involving the sale of instrument panel clusters to several automobile producers, the Department of Justice announced.
“Today’s guilty plea further demonstrates our commitment at the Antitrust Division and shows that neither time nor distance provide refuge for executives who conspire to cheat American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division will leave no stone unturned including working with enforcers around the world to bring to justice those who infect international markets with collusion.”
“The FBI will vigorously investigate and work to prosecute individuals, such as Kim, who conspire to allocate sales and rig bids for their own selfish gain and at the expense of the American people,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Today’s extradition and guilty plea demonstrate the FBI’s determination to bring those who violate competition law the United States has long upheld to justice.”
Kim’s extradition is the third extradition based solely on an antitrust charge and the second in as many months. A fugitive for nearly five years, Kim was apprehended by German authorities in September 2019 in Frankfurt. Kim ultimately consented to extradition and arrived in Atlanta on February 28, 2020. Kim appeared before Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and pleaded guilty on March 2, 2020. Judge Batten sentenced Kim to nine months in prison with credit for the time he was held in custody pending extradition and prior to sentencing. He also has been sentenced to pay a $130,000 criminal fine.
Kim pleaded guilty to conspiring to allocate sales of, rig bids for, and submit rigged and non-competitive bids for instrument panel clusters sold to Korean automobile producers and their subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere. Instrument panel clusters are a set of instruments located on the dashboard of a vehicle that contain gauges such as the speedometer, tachometer, odometer, and fuel gauge, as well as warning indicators for gearshift position, seat belt, parking-brake engagement, engine malfunction, low fuel, low oil pressure, and low tire pressure. Kim participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as February 2008 until as late as May 2012.
Including Kim, more than 100 companies and executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s investigation into the automotive parts industry. More than $2.9 billion in criminal fines have been imposed and 32 individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve prison sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years.
Kim was charged with bid rigging in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine 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 the result of a federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry conducted by the Antitrust Division and the FBI. Today’s charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Mobile, Alabama, Field Office. Assistance with the extradition was provided by the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the United States Marshals Service. The Department of Justice thanks the government of Germany for its assistance in this case. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging, or other anticompetitive conduct should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1–888–647–3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.