DETROIT (March 2, 12:50 p.m. ET) — Japanese auto supplier Yazaki Corp. formally pleaded guilty March 1 in U.S. District Court in Detroit for its involvement in the global price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy.
The Tokyo-based company agreed to pay the U.S. government $470 million – the second largest federal fine ever imposed on a single company.
The charges against Yazaki span a decade of company executives allegedly meeting with competitors in the U.S. and Japan to rig bids and fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of automotive parts.
“Yazaki Corp. sincerely regrets its actions, and has taken extensive steps to comply with U.S. antitrust laws,” Yazaki senior managing director Takao Soeda told U.S. District Judge George Steeh. “The company accepts full responsibility for its unlawful conduct.”
A financial analysis firm said the fine is, at most, about 8 percent of company's estimated 2010 fiscal year sales of $6 billion.
Two other Japanese suppliers, Tokyo-based Furukawa Electrical Co. Ltd. and Kariya, Japan-based Denso Corp., which has a subsidiary in Southfield, Mich., also have been part of the federal probe. Furukawa pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $200 million to the U.S. government in November, and Denso agreed earlier this year to pay $78 million. Denso will appear for its plea hearing on March 5.
Yazaki has been ordered to pay about $78.3 million each year until 2017, along with any accrued interest on the remaining balance. Three payments of $400 also are owed for the three charges, as a nominal penalty for the company's court appearance.
Four Yazaki executives who held posts in Japan or at Yazaki North America in Canton Township, Mich., were indicted in January for allegedly meeting in secret with competitors to learn each other's prices, and align them. Tsuneaki Hanamura, Ryoji Kawai, Shigeru Ogawa and Hisamitsu Takada will serve prison time ranging from 15 months to two years.
The plea agreement indicated that the government would not bring criminal charges against most of the company's more than 5,000 employees – with the exception of the four executives charged, and three others excluded from the plea.
Excluded from the plea protection is Trans Pacific Nikkei Operations Executive Vice President Akira Kawakami, who works at the Canton Township operation, who is not accused of anything in court.