Wednesday, 26 February 2014 01:46

Bridgestone Guilty of Price Fixing, To Pay $425 Million Fine

Anti-Vibration Parts Sold to Toyota, Nissan, Fuji Industries, Suzuki, and Isuzu

Bridgestone Corp., a Tokyo, Japan-based company, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a US$425-million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced.

According to a one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo, Bridgestone engaged in a conspiracy to allocate sales of, to rig bids for, and to fix, raise, and maintain the prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts it sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corp., Isuzu Motors Ltd., and certain of their subsidiaries, affiliates, and suppliers. In addition to the criminal fine, Bridgestone also has agreed to cooperate with the ’s ongoing auto parts investigations. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

In October 2011, Bridgestone pleaded guilty and paid a US$28-million fine for price-fixing and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations in the marine hose industry, but did not disclose at the time of the plea that it had also participated in the anti-vibration rubber parts conspiracy. The failure of Bridgestone to disclose this conspiracy was a factor in determining the US$425-million fine.

“The Antitrust Division will take a hard line when repeat offenders fail to disclose additional anti-competitive behavior,” said Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division criminal enforcement program. “Today’s significant fine reaffirms the division’s commitment to holding companies accountable for conduct that harms U.S. consumers.”

According to the charges, Bridgestone and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy through meetings and conversations in which they discussed and agreed upon bids, prices, and allocating sales of certain automotive anti-vibration rubber products. After exchanging this information with its co-conspirators, Bridgestone submitted bids and prices in accordance with those agreements and sold and accepted payments for automotive anti-vibration rubber parts at collusive and noncompetitive prices. Bridgestone’s involvement in the conspiracy to fix prices of anti-vibration rubber parts lasted from at least January 2001, until at least December 2008.

Said special agent in charge, Stephen D. Anthony, “The illegal activity in this case threatened the basic tenet of free competition. We are pleased with the acceptance of responsibility along with the significant penalty, which will be paid by Bridgestone for this conspiracy to fix prices.”

Bridgestone manufactures and sells anti-vibration rubber parts, which are comprised primarily of rubber and metal, and are installed in suspension systems and engine mounts as well as other parts of an automobile.

Including Bridgestone, 26 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the ongoing investigation into price-fixing and bid-rigging in the automotive parts industry. The companies have agreed to pay a total of more than US$2-billion in criminal fines. Additionally, 28 individuals have been charged.

Bridgestone is charged with price-fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries maximum penalties of a US$100-million criminal fine for corporations. The maximum fine 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.

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