Bridgestone Executives Indicted for Auto Part Price Fixing

One current Bridgestone Corp. (5108) executive and two who formerly worked for the Japanese tire company have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury in Cleveland for allegedly conspiring to fix automotive-part prices.

The charges stem from a U.S. Justice Department investigation of price fixing in the auto-parts industry, that according to the agency netted more than $2.29 billion in fines. Thirty-two people have been charged, and 26 companies have either pleaded guilty or agreed to do so, the department said.

“Today’s indictment again demonstrates that antitrust violations are not just corporate offenses but also crimes by individuals,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder said in a statement.

Toyo Tire & Rubber (5105) Co. agreed to plead guilty and pay a $120 million fine for similar allegations in November. Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Hitachi Automotive Systems and seven other Japanese companies in September agreed to pay $740 million in fines for conspiring to fix parts prices for car companies including General Motors Co., Ford Motor (F) Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

The Bridgestone executives are accused of taking part in a scheme to allocate sales and fix prices for automotive anti-vibration rubber products, used in suspension systems and engine mounts, according to the single-count indictment charging them with conspiracy to restrain trade.

Suppress Competition

The objective of the plot was to “suppress and eliminate competition” in the industry, according to the indictment.

Bridgestone said it’s been cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation.

“In order to reestablish the trust of its customers and the many communities in which it does business, the Bridgestone Group will redouble its efforts to ensure full compliance with all relevant laws and regulations through enhanced education, training and regular internal reviews and assessments,” the company said in a statement. “BSJ will take appropriate disciplinary action against certain responsible employees in accordance with applicable corporate standards.”

Bridgestone sold its rubber products to Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Nissan Motor Co., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (7270), maker of Subaru-brand cars. The Tokyo-based tire company in February agreed to pay a $425 million fine and plead guilty to a charge it conspired to fix prices.

Current Bridgestone manager Yoshiyuki Tanaka, and former employees Yasuo Ryuto and Isao Yoshida were indicted today with the charges filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Ohio. Each man faces as long as 10 years’ imprisonment if convicted, and a fine of as much as $1 million.

The case is U.S. v. Ryuto, 14-cr-138, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Toledo).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in federal court in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net; David McLaughlin in Washington at dmclaughlin9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Joe Schneider, Andrew Dunn

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