By: Larry P. Vellequette
November 22, 2013
DETROIT — Three midlevel executives of Japanese supplier Takata Corp. will each plead guilty to one felony charge of conspiracy to fix the price of seat belts in cars built in the United States for Japanese automakers, the U.S. Department of Justice said this week.
Under a plea agreement, each of the executives, Yasuhiko Ueno, Saburo Imamiya and Yoshinobu Fujino, has agreed to plead guilty, pay a $20,000 fine and serve between 14 and 19 months in federal prison, the department said.
The department alleged that the executives conspired to fix the prices of seat belts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries, parent of the Subaru brand.
Ueno was a senior vice president for sales with Takata's Auburn Hills, Mich.-based U.S. subsidiary, TK Holdings Inc., from January 2006 to December 2007. He subsequently worked for Takata in Japan as deputy division director and later as director of the customer relations division from early 2008 through February 2011. Investigators said Ueno was involved in the price rigging conspiracy from January 2006 until he left the company in Feb. 2011. Ueno has agreed to serve 19 months in prison.
Imamiya worked for Takata in Japan as general manager for Toyota sales from at least January 2008 to July 2009, and as director of the customer relations division from July 2009 through February 2011. Investigators said Imamiya was involved in the alleged price-fixing conspiracy from January 2008 to February 2011. He has agreed to serve 16 months in prison and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.
Fujino worked for Takata in Japan as the manager of the Toyota group within the customer relations division from at least January 2004 through June 2005, and as the manager of the Mazda group within the customer relations division from June 2005 through 2007. He later worked in the United States for TK Holdings through February 2011 as assistant vice president for sales for Japanese manufacturers. Investigators said Fujino was involved in the price-fixing conspiracy from 2004 to February 2011. He has agreed to serve 14 months in prison.
In September, another TK Holdings executive, Gary Walker, agreed to plead guilty and serve 14 months in prison for his part in the same conspiracy, the department said.
On Oct. 9, Takata itself agreed to plead guilty for its involvement in the conspiracy and pay a fine of $71.3 million.
In a written statement, a spokesman for TK Holdings said: "Compliance with all laws is an essential component of Takata's corporate culture and reputation. The company regrets the recent plea agreements announced by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"From the beginning of this investigation, the company has cooperated fully and looking ahead, we are committed to strengthening our reputation as a trusted supplier of automotive parts while also focusing on additional training internally."