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The Department of Justice announced Aug. 9 that a Tokyo-based company has agreed to plead guilty and pay a criminal fine of at least $55.48 million for its role in a conspiracy to allocate markets, fix prices and rig bids for shock absorbers installed in automobiles sold to U.S. consumers. Under this scheme, which ran from the mid-1990s until summer 2011, the company and its co-conspirators agreed to allocate the supply of shock absorbers sold to targeted vehicle manufacturers, agreed to coordinate on price adjustments requested by the manufacturers, and strived to keep their conduct secret by using code names and meeting in remote locations.
According to a DOJ press release, the same company paid a $195 million fine in 2013 for fixing the price of starters, alternators and other electrical automotive components. The company received credit for substantially assisting the DOJ’s investigation at that time, the press release states, but in the course of providing that assistance failed to uncover that it had also conspired to fix the price of shock absorbers. As a result, DOJ will recommend a substantial increase in the company’s criminal fine from the bottom of the Guidelines fine range and will also recommend that the court place the company on probation for three years.
DOJ notes that 46 companies and 64 executives have now been charged in its ongoing antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.8 billion in criminal fines.