Execs admit guilt in auto parts price-fixing case

AP News
Posted: Oct 24, 2011 6:34 PM
Execs admit guilt in auto parts price-fixing case

Two executives from a Japanese auto parts maker have admitted in a U.S. court that they conspired to fix prices of parts their company sold to auto companies, which may have raised car prices.

Furukawa Electric Co. is to pay a $200 million fine, which the Justice Department said last month is among the largest it has won.

Employees Junichi Funo, 41, and Hirotsugu Nagata, 46, told a federal judge in Detroit Monday that they helped to set prices on automotive wiring harnesses that Furukawa sold to car manufacturers in the U.S. and other countries in a scheme the government said dates back more than a decade.

The harnesses are groups of wires that link electronic controls to everything from brake lights to transmissions.

Nagata agreed to a 15-month prison term, while Funo agreed to one year and one day. Each will pay a $20,000 fine. The men will be sentenced Jan. 11 by Judge George Caram Steeh.

They both agreed to testify against other companies the government contends were involved in the scheme. The other companies were not identified during Monday's court hearing, and prosecutor Kathryn Hellings would not comment.

The company and a third executive also have settled federal charges against them and are expected to enter pleas in November.

Prosecutors have said the price-fixing probably raised car prices for consumers, but just how much is unclear. An industry analyst said last month that auto companies probably were overcharged hundreds of millions of dollars.

Nagata and Funo both said during the hearing that they met with competitors to fix prices and rig bids on the harnesses.

In court documents signed by both men, the government said it is investigating violations of federal antitrust laws in the sale of the harnesses and sensors that detect the angle of a car's steering. The government alleges the conspiracy dates to January of 2000.