Toyo Tire to pay $120 million for price fixing, U.S. says
WASHINGTON -- Japan's Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. has agreed to plead guilty to U.S. price-fixing charges and pay a $120 million criminal fine for its role in conspiracies involving auto parts, the Justice Department said.
Toyo, which has subsidiaries in Kentucky and Georgia, has also agreed to cooperate with the investigation as it continues, the department said in a statement on Tuesday.
The government said Toyo supplied automotive anti-vibration rubber parts to Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the corporate parent of Subaru. The charges, filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Ohio, said Toyo and its co-conspirators engaged in the price-fixing conspiracy from March 1996 until at least May 2012.
Toyo also agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices of constant velocity joint boots sold to GKN Plc of the UK. The boots protect cars' joints from contaminants.
The company agreed to cooperate with the investigation, the department said in a statement.
It is the latest in a global antitrust and price-fixing investigation into the auto supply chain. Besides the United States, regulators in the European Union and Japan also have launched similar investigations over the last few years.
In the U.S., 22 companies and 26 executives have been charged in the Justice Department's ongoing investigation, including Toyo. The government said all 22 companies have either pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty -- and will pay more than $1.8 billion in criminal fines.
"Of the 26 executives, 20 have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons or have entered into plea agreements calling for significant prison sentences," the U.S. statement said.
Toyo's involvement in the latest case began to emerge in a separate prosecution announced last week.
U.S. prosecutors said the investigation is ongoing.
"Today's charge is the latest step in the Antitrust Division's effort to hold automobile part suppliers accountable for their illegal and collusive conduct," Renata Hesse, deputy assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division, said in a statement. "The division continues to vigorously prosecute companies and individuals that seek to maximize their profits through illegal and anticompetitive means."
Among the companies the Justice Department's Antitrust Division settled with previously were Autoliv Inc., Tokai Rika Co., TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Co., Furukawa Electric Co. and Fujikura Ltd.
Toyo Tire and Rubber could not be immediately reached for comment.
Reuters and Philip Nussel contributed to this report.