Japan's Bridgestone Corp, the world's largest producer of tyres, yesterday agreed to plead guilty and pay a $425 million criminal fine to US regulators on charges of conspiring to fix prices of automotive parts.
Bridgestone is among the other 26 other automotive suppliers who have so far pleaded guilty for the same charges bought on by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) after a three-year investigation.
The DoJ said that this is the largest criminal investigation ever pursued by its antitrust division and has now netted more than $2 billion through criminal fines.
According to DoJ, Bridgestone conspired to rig bids and to fix, raise and maintain prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts it sold to Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor, Fuji Heavy Industries, Suzuki Motor, Isuzu Motors and certain of their subsidiaries, affiliates and suppliers, in the US and elsewhere.
In addition to the criminal fine, Bridgestone also has agreed to cooperate with the department's ongoing auto parts investigations.
In October 2011, Bridgestone pleaded guilty and paid a $28 million fine for price-fixing and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations in the marine hose industry, but the DoJ said that Bridgestone did not disclose at the time of the plea that it had also participated in the anti-vibration rubber parts conspiracy.
The regulator said that Bridgestone's failure to disclose this conspiracy was a factor in determining the $425 million fine.
''The Antitrust Division will take a hard line when repeat offenders fail to disclose additional anticompetitive behavior,'' said Brent Snyder, deputy assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division's criminal enforcement program. ''Today's significant fine reaffirms the division's commitment to holding companies accountable for conduct that harms US consumers.''