Bridgestone to pay $425M fine in price-fixing scheme

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By Larry P. Vellequette, Crain News Service

TOLEDO, Ohio (Feb. 13, 2014) — Bridgestone Corp. has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $425 million criminal fine for its alleged role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of rubber anti-vibration automotive parts, the U.S. Department of Justice said today.

In a one-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, the Tokyo-based supplier was charged with conspiracy for fixing the prices of auto parts sold in the U.S. to several Japanese auto makers between 2001 and 2008. Among those was Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.

The $425 million fine agreed to in the plea agreement is large when compared to those levied against the 25 other suppliers that have agreed to plead guilty as part of the ongoing price-fixing investigation. Justice Department officials said that the reason was because Bridgestone had been convicted of similar charges and paid a $28 million fine in 2011 for conspiring to fix prices in the marine hose industry, but failed at that time to disclose its activities in the automotive sector.

"The Antitrust Division will take a hard line when repeat offenders fail to disclose additional anticompetitive behavior," Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division's criminal enforcement program, said in a written statement. "Today's significant fine reaffirms the division's commitment to holding companies accountable for conduct that harms U.S. consumers."

Bridgestone is the 26th automotive supplier in the U.S. that has agreed to plead guilty to price fixing charges as part of the three-year-old investigation—which has also resulted charges against 28 individuals. In total, the companies and individuals have agreed to pay more than $2 billion in criminal fines.

This report appeared on autonews.com, the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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