Denso exec pleads guilty to instrument panel price-fixing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- An executive at Japan's Denso Corp. has agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices of automobile instrument panel clusters and to serve a prison sentence, the U.S. Justice Department said today.

The executive is one of 36 who have pleaded guilty to fixing the prices of more than 30 auto parts, ranging from radiators to windshield wipers and air-conditioning systems. Twenty-seven companies -- including Denso -- have pleaded guilty in the long-running investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.3 billion in fines.

In this case, Satoru Horisaki, a group leader for Denso at the time of the price-fixing, agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices for instrument panel clusters sold to Honda of America Manufacturing Company Inc., according to court papers filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Horisaki agreed to serve a prison sentence of one year and one day, the Justice Department said.

The prices were fixed from about 2009 to about February 2010, the Justice Department said in its filing.

Horisaki's status with Denso was not clear in the government documents released today. A company spokeswoman declined to indicate if or when he was terminated.

Horisaki is the sixth Denso executive to be convicted in the ongoing U.S. investigation, the government said in a statement.

In March 2012, the government said, Denso pleaded guilty and 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.

Automotive News contributed to this report.

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