A Cincinnati federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment against a former executive of a Japanese manufacturer of automotive parts for his participation in a conspiracy to allocate markets and fix prices of pinion-assist type electric powered steering assemblies, the Department of Justice announced today.
The indictment, filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio charges Akira Wada, a former executive of Showa Corporation, with participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to allocate markets, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of pinion-assist type electric powered steering assemblies sold to Honda in the United States and elsewhere. Wada was the Manager and then General Manager of Sales Department 1 at Showa from at least as early as 2003 until at least June 2009. In 2013 Wada became a Director and Operating Officer of Showa.
“Yesterday’s indictment again demonstrates that antitrust violations are not just corporate offenses but also crimes by individuals,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division. “The division will continue to vigorously prosecute executives who circumvent the law in order to maximize profits by harming consumers.”
The indictment alleges, among other things, that from at least as early as 2007 and continuing until at least September 2012, Wada and his co-conspirators participated in meetings, conversations, and communications to discuss the market allocation scheme and price quotations to be submitted to Honda in the United States and elsewhere. It alleges that Wada and his co-conspirators submitted price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached at these meetings. Wada also directed, authorized, or consented to the participation of subordinate employees in the price fixing conspiracy.
Showa is a Japanese company with its principal place of business in Saitama, Japan. Showa was engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling pinion-assist type electric powered steering. On June 10, 2014, Showa pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $19.9 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy.
Including Wada, 44 individuals have been charged in the government’s ongoing investigation into market allocation, price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Twenty-six of these individuals have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to serve prison terms ranging from a year and one day to two years. Additionally, 29 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of nearly $2.4 billion in fines.
Wada is charged with market allocation and price fixing 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.
Yesterday's indictment is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into market allocation, price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by four of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI. Today’s charge was brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office. 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 1-888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html, or call the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office at 513-421-4310.