showaOn 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.”

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About Michael O'Kane

Michael O’Kane is a partner and Head of the Business Crime team at leading UK firm Peters & Peters. Described as ‘first-rate’ (Legal 500 2012), he “draws glowing praise from commentators” (Chambers 2013) for handling the international aspects of business crime, including sanctions, extradition and mutual legal assistance. Called to the Bar in 1992 and prior to joining Peters & Peters he was a senior specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters(CPS). At CPS HQ he was a key member of a small specialist unit responsible for the prosecution of serious and high profile fraud, terrorist and special interest criminal matters including the Stansted Airport Afghan hijacking and the prosecution of Paul Burrell (Princess Diana’s butler). Michael joined Peters & Peters in 2002. He became a partner in May 2004, and Head of the Business Crime team in May 2009. Since joining Peters & Peters, Michael has dealt with a wide range of business crime matters. He has particular expertise in international sanctions, criminal cartels, extradition, corruption, mutual legal assistance, and FSA investigations. Described as“ an influential practitioner in fraud and regulatory work, so much so that he is top of the referral lists of many City firms for independent advice for directors” (The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2009), he was recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative lawyers in the 2011 FT Innovative Lawyer Awards and included in the list of the UK's leading lawyers in 'The International Who's Who of Asset Recovery 2012. In 2012 he was the winner of the Global Competition Review Article of the Year. Michael regularly appears on television and radio to discuss his specialist areas and he is the author of the leading textbook on the UK Criminal Cartel Offence “The Law of Criminal Cartels-Practice and Procedure” (Oxford University Press 2009). Recent/Current Sanctions Work • Representing 109 individuals and 12 companies subject to designation by the European Council under targeted measures imposed against Zimbabwe. This is the largest and most complex collective challenge to a sanctions listing ever brought before the European Court. • Acting for a former Egyptian Minister and his UK resident wife, challenging their designation by the European Council of Ministers under targeted measures brought against former members of the Egyptian Government. • Advising a company accused in a UN investigation report to have breached UN sanctions imposed in relation to Somalia. • Advising a UK company in relation to ongoing commercial relationships with an Iranian company listed under both EU and UN sanctions. • Advising an individual in relation to a UK investigation for alleging breaching nuclear export controls.

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