On 23 April 2014, the US Department of Justice, Anti-Trust Division announced that the Showa Corporation, a Japanese car parts manufacturer, has agreed to plead guilty to US charges of price-fixing and bid-rigging, paying a $19.9 million fine. The cartel activity related to pinion-assist type electric powered steering assemblies. Showa has agreed to co-operate with the Department’s ongoing investigation.
According to the Division, between 2007 and 2012 Showa engaged in a conspiracy to suppress competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for steering assemblies sold to Honda Motor Company Limited and certain of its subsidiaries. Those involved in the conspiracy kept their conduct secret by using code names and meeting in remote locations. They monitored adherence to the agreed-upon bid-rigging and price-fixing scheme, selling steering assemblies at collusive and non-competitive prices.
To date, 27 companies and 24 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the Division’s ongoing investigation into price-fixing and bid-rigging in the auto parts industry. Those involved in cartel activity have agreed to pay a total of $2.3 billion in criminal fines.
Showa stated that “in order to restore the trust and confidence of our stakeholders as well of the public, Showa has implemented functional organization changes, enhanced the business auditing system for our corporate group, re-organized executive management line-up, and ensured prevention of the recurrence of the violation by adopting more stringent and comprehensive compliance training for antitrust laws, as well as other applicable laws and regulations, to our associates.” The company’s directors and operating officers have volunteered to return part of their salaries.
Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Division said that “Today’s guilty plea marks the 27th time a company has been held accountable for fixing prices on parts used to manufacture cars in the United States. The Antitrust Division and its law enforcement partners remain committed to prosecuting illegal cartels that harm US consumers and businesses.”