DETROIT -- A Denso executive will become the eighth employee from three automotive suppliers to plead guilty in antitrust investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice into rigging bids for parts.
Norihiro Imai, a Japanese national, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of price fixing in U.S. District Court in Detroit and be sentenced to one year and one day in a U.S. prison, the department said in a press release. Imai also has agreed to pay a $20,000 fine and cooperate in the Justice Department's price-fixing investigations, the department said.
Imai is accused of taking part in a scheme with unidentified co-conspirators to rig bids and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of heater control panels sold in the United States and elsewhere. The alleged conspiracy began as early as August 2006 and lasted until at least June 2009, the department said.
Denso, of Kariya, Japan, ranks No. 2 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with estimated worldwide parts sales to automakers of $32.9 billion in fiscal 2010. The company produces thermal, powertrain control, electronic and electric systems, small motors and telecommunications.
Julie Kerr, a U.S. spokeswoman for Denso, said the supplier "takes this matter very seriously" and that the company is "taking various measures to further ensure that our employees comply with all antitrust laws."
She declined to say whether Imai was based in the United States or elsewhere and would not comment further.
Seven employees -- all Japanese nationals -- from Yazaki Corp. and Furukawa Electric Co. face up to two years' prison time in the United States after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the bid-rigging investigations.