Magna, IAC, Faurecia part of German price-fixing probe

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German antitrust authorities searched the offices of Magna International Inc., IAC Group, Faurecia, and three other automotive suppliers Tuesday.

Borgers AG, Autoneum Germany GmbH and one other automotive supplier also were searched. The companies are under investigation on suspicion they have been fixing prices since at least 2002 on car trunk linings, the Bonn-based authority said today.

The cartel office declined to reveal which suppliers had their offices searched.

But Magna -- North America's largest supplier -- and IAC -- the U.S. parts maker controlled by billionaire investor Wilbur Ross -- said in separate responses that their German operations were searched as part of the probe. So did France's Faurecia, which is ranked No. 5 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 largest suppliers in North America with $6.1 billion in business with automakers on the continent last year.

Each of those suppliers pledged to cooperate with antitrust authorities.

Global investigation

Antitrust regulators on three continents have been investigating the automotive supply chain for price fixing in recent years.

In a statement issued today, Borgers said it is working intensely to disprove any allegations of wrongdoing.

Autoneum Germany, which is a subsidiary of Swiss-based Autoneum Holding AG, also cited in a statement today that its code of conduct requires it to comply with all applicable laws, including antitrust and competition regulations.

Magna declined to say which location was searched while IAC said that its office in Krefeld, Germany, was searched by the antitrust authorities.

The searches were conducted simultaneously at companies in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria on Tuesday, the cartel office told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche. Twenty cartel office investigators and 15 detectives took part in the searches.

U.S. prosecution

The U.S. portion of the investigation has led to 11 companies and 19 executives, -- including a Panasonic executive who was indicted Tuesday in Detroit -- charged in the price-fixing conspiracy.

More than $874 million in criminal fines have been imposed on the companies, and 14 executives have been sentenced to prison ranging from a year to two years each.

The list of companies that have pleaded guilty include Panasonic, Sanyo Electric Co., Diamond Electric Manufacturing Co., Tokai Rika, Autoliv, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Co., Fujikura, Furukawa Electric Co., Denso Corp., Yazaki Corp. and G.S. Electech.

The charges also have prompted civil litigation in the U.S. courts.

Reuters and Dustin Walsh of Crain's Detroit Business contributed to this report.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.


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