The U.S. Department of Justice racked up another guilty plea in its massive auto parts price-fixing investigation, announcing today that a former Japanese auto parts executive is headed to prison for one year and a day for obstruction of justice.
The ex-executive at Denso Corp. deleted numerous e-mails and electronic documents in February and March 2010 after learning that the FBI had executed a search warrant on Denso’s U.S. subsidiary, according to the one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The emails between Denso and its competitors allegedly concerned requests by Toyota Motor Corp. for a price quotation for heater control panels for the Toyota Avalon.
“Today’s charge demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s commitment to protecting the integrity of grand jury investigations,” Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program, said in a written statement. “The division will vigorously prosecute individuals who destroy evidence in an attempt to conceal their participation in illegal conspiracies.”
The executive, Kazuaki Fujitani, was at the time the general manager of the Toyota Sales Division at Denso. The auto parts maker in March 2012 was sentenced to pay a $78 million criminal fine for its role in conspiracies to fix the prices of heater control panels and electronic control units.
To date, 26 companies have agreed to pay more than $2.25 billion in fines stemming from DOJ’s ongoing investigation into bid-rigging and price-fixing in the auto parts industry, and 29 individuals have been charged for their roles.
Last week, Japan-based Bridgestone Corp. agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $425 million criminal fine stemming from a conspiracy to fix prices of antivibration rubber parts installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere.
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