Three high-level executives of Tokyo-based Takata Corp. have agreed to plead guilty for their participation in a conspiracy to fix prices of seatbelts installed in cars sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced today. The executives have also agreed to serve time in a U.S. prison.
According to the one-count felony charges filed separately against each of the executives today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Yasuhiko Ueno, Saborou Imamiya and Yoshinobu Fujino participated in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of seatbelts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Fuji Heavy Industries Inc. – more commonly known by its brand name, Subaru – and Mazda Motor Corp. in the United States and elsewhere. The three executives have agreed to serve prison sentences ranging from 14 to 19 months, and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.
Ueno was employed by Takata’s Auburn Hills, Mich.-based U.S. subsidiary, TK Holdings Inc., in the United States as senior vice president for sales for Japanese manufacturers from at least January 2006 through December 2007. From early 2008 through June 2009, Ueno was employed by Takata in Japan as deputy division director of the customer relations division, and as director of the customer relations division from June 2009 through at least February 2011. According to the charge, Ueno’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from at least as early as January 2006 until at least February 2011. Ueno has agreed to serve 19 months in prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
Imamiya was employed by Takata in Japan as general manager for Toyota sales from at least January 2008 to July 2009, and as director of the customer relations division from July 2009 through at least February 2011. According to the charge, Imamiya’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from at least as early as January 2008 until at least February 2011. Imamiya has agreed to serve 16 months in prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
Fujino was employed by Takata in Japan as the manager of the Toyota group within the customer relations division from at least January 2004 through June 2005, and as the manager of the Mazda group within the customer relations division from June 2005 through the end of 2007. From the beginning of 2008 through at least February 2011, Fujino was employed by TK Holdings in the United States as assistant vice president for sales for Japanese manufacturers. According to the charge, Fujino’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from at least as early as January 2004 until at least February 2011. Fujino has agreed to serve 14 months in prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
Takata Corp. is a manufacturer of automotive occupant safety systems, including seatbelts. Seatbelts are safety strap restraints designed to secure an occupant in position in a vehicle in the event of an accident, and may be sold bundled with related parts according to the needs of the automobile manufacturer. According to the charges, the Takata executives and their co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by, among other things, agreeing during meetings and communications to coordinate bids submitted to the automobile manufacturers.
On Sept. 26, 2013, Gary Walker, an executive of TK Holdings Inc., agreed to plead guilty and serve a sentence of 14 months in prison for his involvement in the same conspiracy. On Oct. 9, 2013, Takata Corp. agreed to plead guilty for its involvement in the conspiracy and to pay a criminal fine of $71.3 million.
Each of the executives is charged with 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.
Including today’s charges, 24 individuals have been charged in the department’s investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Additionally, 21 corporations have been charged.
The current prosecution arose from 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. Today’s charges were brought by the National Criminal Enforcement Section, with the assistance of the Detroit, Michigan, Field Office of the FBI. Anyone with information concerning the focus of this investigation 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 Detroit Field Office of the FBI at 313-965-2323.