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Sanden fined for price fixing in US

Numerous car parts suppliers implicated in rigging racket

The US Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the automotive parts industry intensified last year with the Japanese supplier Sanden Corporation fined $US3.2 million ($A4.7m) for conspiring to fix the prices of air-conditioning compressors sold to Nissan. 

According to the department, Sanden was fined “for its role in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition for the purchase of compressors used in air-conditioning systems sold to Nissan North America Inc for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States and elsewhere”.

In a statement, the department said: “Sanden and its co-conspirator held meetings and conversations to discuss and agree upon the bids and price quotations submitted to Nissan for the purchase of compressors used in automotive air-conditioning systems.” 

It also said the company’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from as early as August 2008 until at least April 2009.

As well as pleading guilty and agreeing to pay the fine, Sanden agreed to co-operate with the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the parts sector, which as at mid-November last year had charged 38 companies and 58 individuals.

Among the most recent cases, Inoac Corporation agreed in November to plead guilty and pay a $US2.35 million ($A3.4m) fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids on certain plastic interior trim parts, while in September Kayaba Industry Co Ltd (KYB) was fined $US62 million ($A90.3m) for its role in a conspiracy to fix the price of shock absorbers installed in cars and motorcycles sold in the US. 

In a separate case heard in September, NGK Insulators Ltd was fined $US65.3 million ($A95.1m) for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for ceramic substrates for catalytic converters.

Other parts suppliers that settled last year included Espar Inc, Yamada Manufacturing Co Ltd and Robert Bosch GmbH.

According to the Reuters news agency, earlier cases involved a number of other companies including Takata Corp, Autoliv Inc, Tokai Rika Co Ltd, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Co Ltd, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd and Fujikura Ltd.