WASHINGTON (June 12, 2015) — To date, 35 corporations have pleaded guilty in the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division into alleged price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation by auto parts manufacturers.
These companies have paid more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines. However, with the multi-district litigation (MDL) facing them in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the real financial damage may be yet to come.
Since the first filing on Feb. 7, 2012, to the latest on June 5, 2015, a total of 993 documents have been filed so far in the price-fixing MDL before U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battiani.
Suits were filed against a total of 51 companies, of which eight — including such big names as Panasonic, TRW, Panasonic and Autoliv — have settled, according to Hollis Salzman, assistant managing partner in the New York office of law firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.
Ms. Salzman is co-lead counsel for the “end payor” settlement class of the MDL — that is, U.S. citizens who purchased vehicles that contained the parts in question. There are two other settlement classes in the litigation — one for auto dealers who sold the vehicles, and one for auto makers who purchased the parts directly from the accused companies.
Of the 43 companies that have yet to settle, according to Ms. Salzman, four are manufacturers of rubber auto parts — Bridgestone Corp., Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd., Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd. and Tokai Rubber Industries Inc. In 2014, Tokai Rubber changed its name to Sumitomo Riko Co. Ltd.
In February 2014, Bridgestone pleaded guilty in Toledo federal district court to one count of conspiracy to fix prices for rubber anti-vibration parts. Bridgestone paid a fine of $425 million and posted a special loss of $440 million against its 2013 financial results.
Three months earlier, Toyo also pleaded guilty to price fixing in rubber anti-vibration parts and agreed to pay a $120 million fine. Yamashita pleaded guilty to price fixing in September 2013 and agreed to pay an $11 million fine.
Tokai Rubber and Sumitomo Riko did not appear on a search of the DOJ Antitrust Division website. However, a search of “Tokai Rubber” on the website turned up the November 2012 price fixing guilty plea of an executive of the Ohio subsidiary of a Japanese anti-vibration parts manufacturer based in Saitama, Japan. Sumitomo Riko has a subsidiary in Saitama, TRI Saitama Ltd., which manufactures and sells various rubber products, according to the Sumitomo Riko website.