WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department said nine auto parts firms and two executives have pleaded guilty to price fixing in its largest ever antitrust investigation.
The companies involved are all Japanese and the executives include one from Japan and one from the United States, the department said.
In the cases settled Thursday, the department said those pleading guilty have agreed to pay $740 million in criminal fines. To date, however, the department has filed charges against a total of 20 companies and 21 executives. Of those, all 20 companies have pleaded guilty, as have 17 of the 21 executives charged with price fixing.
All told, the defendants have agreed to pay $1.6 billion in criminal fines. The 17 executives who pleaded guilty, meanwhile, including the two charged Thursday, have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons. Some have "entered into plea agreements calling for significant prison sentences," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in remarks prepared for a press conference.
"These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers, and more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the illegal conduct," Holder said.
He said the Department of Justice, "will continue to check under every hood and kick every tire to make sure we put an end to this illegal and destructive conduct."
The department said Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd., Jtekt Corporation, Mitsuba Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., NSK Ltd. , T.RAD Co. Ltd., Valeo Japan Co. Ltd. and Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd. had agreed to pay fines ranging from $11 million to $195 million.
In addition, Tetsuya Kunida, a former executive at a U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese anti-vibration rubber products supplier, will serve one year and one day in a U.S. prison and pay a fine of $20,000.
Gary Walker, also a former executive at a U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese company, was sentenced to 14 months in prison, the department said.