Tokai Rika exec indicted in ongoing supplier price-fixing probe

An executive at Japan’s Tokai Rika Co. -- a supplier to Toyota Motor Corp. -- was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Detroit for conspiracy to fix prices and obstruction of justice.

After Tokai Rika pleaded guilty in 2012 to a U.S. Department of Justice charge of price-fixing and paid a criminal fine of $17.7 million, former Executive Managing Director Hitoshi Hirano is being charged with participating in conspiracies to fix the prices of heating control panels and having employees destroy evidence of antitrust criminal behavior, the government said in a statement.

“The Antitrust Division will not tolerate executives directing their subordinates to engage in illegal cartels and conspiracies,” Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program, said in the statement.

According to the indictment, Hirano met with other conspirators from October 2003 to February 2010 to agree to rig bids, allocate the supply and fix prices of the panels sold to Toyota for vehicles in the United States and other countries. The charge, under the Sherman Antitrust Act, has a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $1 million criminal fine.

In addition to Tokai Rika, 26 auto suppliers, most of them Japanese, have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to similar charges, totaling in $2.3 billion in criminal fines.

Thirty-four other supplier executives have also been charged with price fixing. Twenty-four have pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty, and 22 have been sentenced to 1-2 years in prison.

Similar antitrust investigations have been ongoing by authorities in Europe and Asia.

Tokai Rika ranks No. 48 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide sales to automakers of $4.54 billion during the 2012 fiscal year.

You can reach Katie Burke at -- Follow Katie on Twitter: @KatieGBurke



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