More auto parts manufacturers settle antitrust claims

Posted on: October 2nd, 2015 by Steve Larson

CarFujikura Ltd. and T.Rad Co. Ltd. have agreed to collectively pay more than $14.5 million to end-payors in the sprawling multidistrict litigation against auto parts makers, bringing total recoveries for the plaintiff group to nearly $200 million.  Under the settlements outlined in court filings Monday, T.Rad will pay $7.41 million to the end-payor plaintiffs, and Fujikura will pay $7.14 million. The end-payors include businesses and consumers who purchased or leased new automobiles.

The MDL arose from alleged conspiracies among the auto industry’s biggest manufacturers, marketers and sellers of auto parts to fix prices, rig bids and allocate the market and customers in the U.S. for the products. It followed an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the auto parts industry.

To date, the DOJ investigation has yielded more than $2.5 billion in fines. More than 35 different companies and 55 executives have also pled, or agreed to plead, guilty to criminal charges.

Michitaka Sakuma, a former T.Rad director, was the latest to become ensnared in the government’s investigation when he was indicted in May on charges of price-fixing and bid-rigging. He was the second executive from the Tokyo-based T.Rad to be charged in the probe.

Federal prosecutors alleged Sakuma was part of a conspiracy to fix prices on radiators, first as a general manager in charge of Toyota sales and then as the executive managing director in charge of all sales at T.Rad. The settlement relates to the alleged radiator conspiracy, as well as claims that T.Rad fixed the prices of automatic transmission fluid warmers, a device in the engine that helps control the temperature of the transmission fluid.

The accord struck with Fujikura settles claims it manipulated the prices of wire harnesses — which include parts such as automotive electrical wiring, fuse boxes and lead wire assemblies.

Fujikura, which also has headquarters in Tokyo, agreed just days ago to pay a different plaintiff group — the automobile dealers — $2.26 million to settle claims related to wire harnesses.

The largest settlement to date came last September, when Yazaki Corp. agreed to pay $76 million in the litigation. Then, in April, Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. agreed to pay $46.7 million to resolve allegations it fixed prices on alternators, starters and other auto parts.

The MDL case is entitled In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation, case number 2:12-md-02311, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.