Supplier exec pleads guilty to price-fixing, remains an employee

UPDATED: 8/1/14 6:59 am ET - adds details

An executive from G.S. Electech Inc., a supplier to Toyota Motor Corp., pleaded guilty Thursday to playing a role in an international conspiracy to rig bids and fix prices on auto parts, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Shingo Okuda, an engineering and sales division manager for Japanese auto supplier G.S. Electech, took a plea deal, agreeing to cooperate with the department’s investigation of the price-fixing conspiracy and pay a $20,000 criminal fine. Okuda will serve a 13-month sentence in a U.S. prison. 

A G.S. Electech spokesman at the company’s headquarters in Japan told Automotive News today that Okuda remains an employee and that there are no plans to terminate him. He did not know if Okuda would resign, calling that a “personal decision.” He said the company had no other comment on the case. 

The company, based in Toyota City, Japan, supplied speed sensor wire assemblies used on antilock brake systems installed in American cars.

A federal grand jury in Kentucky indicted Okuda in September, charging him with conspiring to rig bids and fix prices of speed sensor wire assemblies, or ABS skid sensor wires.

From as early as January 2003 until at least February 2010, Okuda and his co-conspirators participated in meetings and conversations to discuss bids and price quotations, according to the indictment. They conspired to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of ABS skid wires sold to Toyota in the United States and other regions.

In 2012, G.S. Electech pleaded guilty to involvement in the price-fixing conspiracy and agreed to pay a $2.75 million criminal fine. G.S. Electech is one of 27 companies that have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the price-fixing conspiracy. The implicated companies have agreed to pay a total of almost $2.3 billion in fines, the department said.

Okuda is one of 36 individuals charged in the department’s investigation. Twenty-six of the 36 have pleaded guilty.

Hans Greimel contributed to this story.

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