Two former executives with Japanese supplier NGK Spark Plug Co. had retired before they were indicted Thursday on a charge of conspiring to fix prices of spark plugs, standard oxygen sensors and air fuel ratio sensors sold to some automakers in the U.S. and elsewhere.
U.S. prosecutors allege that Norio Teranishi and Hishashi Nakanishi began participating in and directing price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy meetings as early as January 2000 and continued through at least July 2011. Teranishi retired from the company in June 2012 and Nakanishi retired in September 2014, the supplier wrote in an emailed statement.
A press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice last week indicated Nakanishi was still employed by NGK, which has U.S. operations in Irvine, Calif.; Sissonville, W.Va.; and Chicago.
NGK Spark Plug declined to comment further.
Teranishi and Nakanishi remain in Japan, and it is unclear if U.S. prosecutors will seek extraditions. The former NGK Spark Plug executives have been made aware of the charges and have acquired counsel, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman wrote in an email last week.
As of yet, no one indicted in the U.S. has gone to trial or challenged the charges in court. About half have agreed to go to prison while the others have yet to enter pleas.
In about 20 cases, executives indicted in the federal investigation have evaded trial by remaining in Japan. Many are still employed by the suppliers for which they are charged with fixing prices.
Including Teranishi and Nakanishi, 55 individuals have been charged in the U.S. investigation while 35 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty. The companies have agreed to pay a combined total of more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines, making it the largest antitrust prosecution in U.S. history.
NGK Spark Plug was the target of an antitrust crackdown in South Korea and has admitted to participating in price fixing and bid rigging in the United States. In March, South Korea’s antitrust regulator said it would fine NGK Spark Plug and its South Korean subsidiary $1.3 million for fixing prices and rigging bids for engine parts. In October, the company pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $52.1 million criminal fine to the U.S. government for price fixing and bid rigging.
Similar crackdowns on bid rigging are being implemented in Canada, Japan, Europe, China, Singapore and South Africa.
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