The US Justice Department announced on 12 September 2013 that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against Shingo Okuda, an executive at G.S Electech Inc., for his role in a conspiracy to fix prices in the car manufacturing sector.
Okuda, a Japanese citizen, is accused of agreeing during meetings and discussions to fix prices and rig bids for speed sensor wire assemblies sold to Toyota between 2003 and 2010, in violation of the Sherman Act. The charges against Okuda are the latest in the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into the automotive sector and follow Panasonic’s guilty plea in July 2013. Okuda is the first to be charged in Kentucky, where Toyota has a large assembly plant.
G.S Electech, which manufactures, assembles and sells a variety of automotive electrical parts, was the first of 12 companies to plead guilty to charges in the investigation and was fined USD2.75 million for its part in the cartel in April 2012. The investigation has so far seen 12 companies and 15 executives plead guilty and has cost the auto industry more than USD874 million in fines and resulted in prison sentences of between a year and a day and two years. Substantial fines have also been imposed in parallel investigations in Europe, Australia, Korea, Japan and Canada. An investigation in China is expected to be opened in the coming months.
There is no sign that the probe is set to slow down, with Scott Hammond, the departing deputy assistant attorney general of the antitrust division’s criminal enforcement programme, saying that “holding individuals accountable for their actions is the surest way to deter executives from choosing to collude rather than compete for business.”