DETROIT (April 24, 3:30 p.m. ET) — Fujikura Ltd. today becomes the fifth Japanese automotive supplier to reach a plea agreement in Detroit with the U.S. Department of Justice to allegations of price-fixing during the previous decade, and will pay a $20 million fine, Justice's Antitrust Division announced.
The company faces one felony charge of conspiracy to restrain trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, brought today at U.S. District Court in Detroit. Justice officials allege Fujikura conspired to rig bids and stabilize prices of “wire harnesses and related products” from at least January 2006 to February 2010.
The agreement marks the fifth US prosecution of an automotive supplier since last September, with fines totaling just under $771 million. Others to plead guilty so far include wire harness market leader Yazaki Corp. ($470 million), Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd. ($200 million), Denso Corp. ($78 million) and G.S. Electech Inc. ($2.75 million).
The fine for Tokyo-based Fujikura also follows an order in January by the Fair Trade Commission in Japan to pay 1.1 billion yen (about $14.4 million) in fines, along with Yazaki (9.6 billion yen, or about $125.8 million) and No. 2 supplier Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd., (2.1 billion yen or about $27.5 million).
Fujikura subsidiary Fujikura America Inc. has offices in Farmington Hills and Santa Clara, Calif., and in 2010 held a “very large” share of the wire harness supply chain to American and German OEMs, with more than 20 percent of revenue coming from Volkswagen AG, according to Dublin, Ireland-based Research and Markets.
Fujikura has agreed to the $20 million fine and will cooperate with the ongoing U.S. investigation, the Justice Department said.
To date, eight executives have been charged and also have agreed to plead guilty; seven executives of Yazaki and Furukawa have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to serve a total of more than 122 months in jail.
“The Antitrust Division will remain vigilant in its efforts to detect and prosecute anticompetitive conduct in this important industry, which affects virtually every American consumer,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis Pozen in charge of the Antitrust Division in a statement.
“The division has focused its enforcement efforts in industries essential to consumers' everyday lives, and we, along with our law enforcement partners, have been successful in bringing to justice companies and executives engaged in illegal price fixing conspiracies.”
Efforts to reach Fujikura for comment were unsuccessful. The phone number for the Farmington Hills, Mich. office was disconnected, and no one could be reached at the office in Santa Clara.