A Japanese automotive parts supplier has agreed to pay $6 million to resolve claims of price-fixing and bid rigging in the first civil settlements in a sweeping antitrust case coordinated in federal court in Detroit.
The U.S. Justice Department has targeted auto parts suppliers with the largest antitrust investigation in its history. So far, 23 companies and 25 executives have been charged. Many of them have pleaded guilty and the Justice Department has obtained $1.8 billion in fines.
Nippon Seiki Co. Ltd., which in 2012 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rig bids and paid a $1 million criminal fine, agreed as part of the civil settlements to resolve claims for restitution to two classes of plaintiffs: dealers and end payors, or consumers or businesses that purchased cars with those parts.
“I think it’s a strong statement for a defendant who pleads guilty: It’s the right thing for the corporation to do—to step forward and provide restitution,” said Hollis Salzman, co-lead counsel for the end-payor plaintiffs class, which reached a $4.56 million settlement with Nippon Seiki and its affiliates. “We would hope that other defendants, especially those that pled guilty, would take the responsible route, also—settle the claims with defendants so that those that have been injured by the conspiracy can be made whole.”
Salzman, co-chairwoman of the antitrust and trade regulation practice group at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, said a parallel settlement for $1.44 million resolves claims by dealers. Jonathan Cuneo, founding member of Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca in Washington, who represents the dealer class, did not return a call for comment. An attorney for Nippon Seiki, A. Paul Victor, a partner in Winston & Strawn’s New York office, did not return a call for comment.
The settlements are subject to court approval. The next hearing in the case is set for Feb. 12, according to Salzman.
The settlements are part of a coordinated proceeding before U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani in the Eastern District of Michigan involving companies that sold 27 types of parts for new cars. The case against Nippon Seiki involved instrumental panel clusters, which operate the instruments displayed in front of the driver.
Under the agreement, Nippon Seiki has agreed to cooperate in the litigation against the other remaining defendants, which include Yazaki Corp. and Denso Corp.
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