DETROIT — Bridgestone Corp. and Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. have agreed to multi-million-dollar settlements to resolve allegations that they fixed prices and rigged bids in the late 1990s and early 2000s on automotive anti-vibration parts.
Bridgestone and Toyo will pay $29.6 million and $36.1 million, respectively, to settle a multidistrict litigation suit against them and four other Japanese automotive suppliers by a group of “end-payor plaintiffs (EPP).”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case filed the agreement Oct. 9 before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The suit was filed originally in 2014.
Bridgestone confirmed the settlement, but declined to comment further “other than to reaffirm the Bridgestone Group's longstanding commitment to conducting business in the highest ethical manner in full compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.”
The end-payor plaintiffs are identified as “all persons and entities who, during the period from and including March 1, 1996,...purchased or leased a new vehicle in the U.S. not for resale which included one or more anti-vibration rubber part(s) as a component part, or indirectly purchased one or more anti-vibration rubber part(s) as a replacement part, which were manufactured or sold by the defendants, any current or former subsidiary of the defendants or any co-conspirator of the defendants.”
The suit identifies 58 plaintiffs by name and “all others similarly situated,” according to the referenced definition. The other companies identified as defendants in the suit are Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd., YUSA Corp., Tokai Rubber Industries Ltd. and DTR Industries Inc.
Toyo also settled a second, related suit, filed by a group of car dealers, agreeing to pay $11.4 million to settle similar claims.
“We are pleased to have reached a settlement in this matter, which involved conduct that occurred many years ago,” Toyo said in a statement. "Toyo Tires is committed to the continued enhancement of its compliance programs to ensure that its business is conducted with the utmost integrity.”
In addition to the money, Bridgestone and Toyo agreed to offer total cooperation with the ongoing litigation, including witness interviews and depositions and production of documents.
The EPPs asked the court to:
- Preliminarily approve the deal;
- Provisionally certify the settlement class proposed in the settlement;
- Stay the proceedings against Bridgestone in accordance with the terms of the settlement; and
- Appoint an interim co-lead class counsel for the EPPs as settlement class counsel for the settlement.
“The settlement agreement is not only fair, reasonable and adequate — resulting from extensive arm's length negotiations by experienced counsel — but also a thoughtfully conceived resolution of the proposed settlement class' claims that maximizes its recovery and guarantees cooperation by Bridgestone in the continued prosecution of EPPs' claims,” the settlement document said.
The Toyo settlement made similar requests and statements. Both companies continue to deny wrongdoing, and the parties in both settlements are not requesting court hearings.
In February 2014, Tokyo-based Bridgestone pleaded guilty to one felony count in Toledo federal district court and agreed to pay $425 million to settle the Justice Department Antitrust Division's charge that the company conspired to fix prices of rubber anti-vibration parts.
Toyo pleaded guilty to two separate conspiracies involving anti-vibration parts in December 2013, and agreed to pay a fine of $120 million.
The Antitrust Division alleged that Bridgestone conspired to rig bids, allocate markets and fix prices in the anti-vibration parts market as early as January 2001, and that Toyo entered that conspiracy by January 2006.