Japanese Auto Parts Company Agrees to Plead Guilty to Antitrust Conspiracy Involving Steel Tubes
Company Agrees to Pay $7.2 Million Criminal Fine
Usui Kokusai Sangyo Kaisha Ltd. (Usui), an automotive parts manufacturer based in Shimizu, Japan, has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $7.2 million criminal fine for its role in a criminal conspiracy involving automotive steel tubes sold to automobile manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Usui participated in a conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers and rig bids for automotive steel tubes sold to automobile manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere. Maruyasu Industries Co. Ltd., Maruyasu’s wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary, Curtis-Maruyasu America Inc. (CMA), and sales executives, Tadao Hirade, Kazunori Kobayashi, Satoru Murai and Yoshihiro Shigematsu, were previously indicted on June 15, for their alleged participation in the conspiracy. In addition to Usui’s agreement to pay a $7.2 million criminal fine, the manufacturer has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.
“Despite having prosecuted scores of corporate and individual conspirators in this investigation, the Antitrust Division continues to vigilantly pursue those responsible who have not yet been held accountable,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “This investigation is not completed, and the division will continue to prosecute automotive parts manufacturers and executives that sought to maximize their profits through anticompetitive means.”
“Bid rigging, price fixing and other schemes hurt consumers and undermine our economic system,” said Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office. “The FBI, the Department of Justice and our partners will continue to work to protect consumers and root out corporate fraud.”
“The Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General is proud to work with the Department of Justice and the FBI in protecting the U.S. economy from illegal pricing tactics such as those uncovered in this investigation,” said Special Agent in Charge Duane Townsend of the Commerce’s Office of Inspector General. “We will continue our cooperative efforts to bring those who violate our laws to justice and deter future attempts to undermine fair market practices.”
Automotive steel tubes are used in fuel distribution, braking and other automotive systems and are sometimes divided into two categories – chassis tubes and engine parts. Chassis tubes, such as brake and fuel tubes, tend to be located in the body of a vehicle while engine parts, such as fuel injection rails, oil level tubes and oil strainer tubes, are associated with the function of a vehicle’s engine.
According to the charges, Usui and its co-conspirators participated in meetings, conversations and communications in which they agreed to customer allocations as well as bids, prices and price adjustments to be submitted to customers in the United States and elsewhere. Usui and its co-conspirators employed measures to conceal their conduct, including meeting surreptitiously and adopting means and methods of communication designed to avoid detection. Usui’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from at least as early as December 2003 until at least as late as July 9, 2011.
Today’s charge is 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 the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI. Including Usui, 47 companies and 65 executives have been charged in the division’s ongoing investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.9 billion in criminal fines.
These charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the Department of Commerce’s Denver Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office, the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio. Anyone with information on market allocation, 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.