Civil settlements recently have exceeded $260 million in federal litigation stemming from the ongoing U.S. criminal antitrust investigation into supplier price fixing.
U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani this month gave preliminary approval to a deal for TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. and German affiliate TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH to settle for $8 million with direct purchaser plaintiffs, which are other auto companies who allegedly bought components at colluded prices.
Since February, Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. and Panasonic Corp. have also agreed to pay nearly $83 million combined to settle with dealership and consumer plaintiffs.
TRW previously agreed to pay $7.1 million to dealerships and consumers in settlements late last year. The new settlement resolves litigation for three major classes of plaintiffs.
Suppliers Yazaki Corp., Lear Corp., Autoliv Inc. and Nippon Seiki Co. Ltd. already had agreed to more than $187 million of combined settlements.
Allegations of global supplier price-fixing dating back to at least 2000 first drew public attention after the FBI in February 2010 raided Yazaki North America's offices in Canton Township, Mich., along with suburban Detroit offices of Denso Corp. and Tokai Rika Group North America.
The Japan Fair Trade Commission also around the same time raided the offices of Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd., the first of 34 companies to plead guilty to U.S. criminal charges since 2011 at federal courts in Detroit and elsewhere.
Those companies have agreed to nearly $2.5 billion in criminal fines. The investigation also has led to criminal charges against 52 individuals -- including a former Hitachi executive who was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison last week.
But the civil litigation in Detroit has yielded additional financial settlements from around the U.S. on behalf of classes of automakers, dealerships and the businesses and consumers who bought cars with parts made at alleged colluded prices. Some government agencies and trucking companies are also plaintiffs.
In the latest settlements, Panasonic resolves legal claims involving its alleged role in setting prices for automotive switches, steering angle sensors and lighting controls, while Hitachi's settlements cover claims for inverters, starters, fuel injection systems and other components.
TRW's latest settlement covers suppliers or OEMs who purchased safety systems components from the company since January 2003.