In a case now pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, a Detroit federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment under Section One of the Sherman Act against a former top executive of a Japanese manufacturer of automotive parts for his participation in a conspiracy to fix prices of seatbelts, reports Crain's Detroit and the FBI. The indictment charges Gikou Nakajima, a former executive at Takata Corp., with participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of seatbelts sold to Toyota, Honda Nissan, Mazda and Subaru for installation in vehicles sold in the United States and elsewhere.
Nakajima is the fifth Takata executive to be charged in the government’s ongoing auto parts price-fixing investigation. Nakajima served from June 2005 until June 2009 as director of the customer relations division at Takata. The government alleges he was the highest-level global sales executive at the company. According to the indictment, Nakajima and others attended meetings with co-conspirators and reached collusive agreements to rig bids, allocate the supply, and fix the prices of seatbelts sold to the automobile manufacturers from September 2005 through June 2009. The government alleges that Nakajima participated directly in the conspiratorial conduct and that he directed, authorized, and consented to his subordinates’ participation.
According to Crain's Detroit, Tokyo-based Takata’s North American subsidiary, TK Holdings Inc,, based in Auburn Hills, was raided by the FBI in 2011. The parent company last October agreed to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to restrain trade and pay a $71.3 million fine U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff in Detroit. Takata of Tokyo ranks No. 44 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide original-equipment automotive parts sales of $4.86 billion during its 2012 fiscal year.
To date, 35 individuals have been charged in the government’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry, 24 of whom have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty. Of those, 22 have been sentenced to serve prison terms ranging from a year and one day to two years. Additionally, 27 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.3 billion in fines.