Toyo Tire fined $150 million for price-fixing

PHOTO: Toyo Tire fined $150 million for price-fixing

WASHINGTON - Japan's Toyo Tire & Rubber Co Ltd has agreed to plead guilty to fixing some auto parts prices and pay a US$120 million (S$150 million) criminal fine, the US Justice Department said on Tuesday.

The Justice Department and antitrust enforcers worldwide have been investigating price fixing of more than 30 types of car parts, including seat belts, radiators, windshield wipers, air-conditioning systems, power window motors and power steering components.

Toyo, which has subsidiaries in Kentucky and Georgia, has also agreed to cooperate with the investigation, the department said in a statement.

Toyo admitted to conspiring to fix the prices of anti-vibration rubber parts sold to Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Corp and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd , the maker of Subaru cars.

"The Toyo Tire group companies have been fully cooperating with the DOJ's investigation, and made this decision after careful consideration of the applicable laws," the company said in a statement to shareholders that was posted on its website.

Toyo said it announced on Nov. 12 an extraordinary loss provision for an alleged US antitrust law violation for the recently ended third quarter, and its financial forecast for the fiscal year ending December 2013, announced on that same date, remains unchanged despite the fine.

It also agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices of constant velocity joint boots sold to GKN Plc. The boots protect cars' joints from contaminants.

Thus far, 22 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in connection with the Justice Department's auto parts price-fixing probe. Twenty-six executives have been charged.

In some cases, the price-fixing lasted for a decade or longer. Parts company executives typically met face to face or talked by phone to reach illegal pricing agreements, the Justice Department said recently.

Among the companies the Justice Department's Antitrust Division settled with previously were Autoliv Inc, Tokai Rika Co Ltd, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Co Ltd, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd and Fujikura Ltd.