By the time four of the nation’s top manufacturers of knee and hip implants agreed to deferred prosecution of charges that they gave kickbacks to orthopedic surgeons who used their products, another company had already struck a better deal.

Stryker Orthopedics Inc. of Mahwah, N.J., avoided having to pay civil fines — whereas the other four would pay $311 million — because it was first to confess the industry’s sins, said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie at a press conference announcing the settlements.

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