An antitrust investigation into automotive wiring harnesses has spread across three continents and involves at least seven international auto suppliers.
Investigators from the FBI raided headquarters for Denso Corp., Yazaki North America Inc. and Tokai Rika Group North America in the U.S.; the European Commission carried out unannounced inspections of companies in Europe; and Japan's Fair Trade Commission raided offices of Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. and Furukawa Electric Co.
The European Commission did not name the companies involved in its search, but Southfield, Mich.-based Lear Corp. acknowledged that it is part of the investigation there, while news outlets in Europe also identified Leoni Kabel GmbH of Roth, Germany, as a target.
The international investigation centers on wiring harnesses, the plastics intensive distribution system of cables and connectors that carry electronic information throughout the car.
Wire harnesses are generally considered the 'central nervous system' of a car, linking the car's computers to the various relevant functions in the vehicle, the EC noted in its Feb. 25 announcement about the investigation.
The antitrust investigations are looking at whether the companies improperly divided up business with automakers.
The commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated [European Union] antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive businesses practice, EC said.
Japanese broadcaster NHK cited a Trade Commission source as stating the investigation alleges collusion between the companies dating to 2003.
The FBI investigation looked at U.S. activities of Japanese companies Denso, Yazaki and Tokai Rika with raids Feb. 23 at their Michigan corporate offices in Southfield, Canton and Plymouth, respectively. The investigation does not involve accelerator issues that have been at the center of recalls and other investigations in the U.S..
Companies including Denso and Lear said they would cooperate with the probes.
I am confident that our company is not involved in any anti-competitive practices, said Bob Rossiter, Lear chairman, CEO and president, in a Feb. 25 news release.
The inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anti-competitive practices, EC said.
The fact that the European Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior.
The European investigation does not have a strict deadline to complete its work.
Ryan Beene, staff reporter for Crain's Detroit Business, contributed to this report.
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