Tokai Rika Co. will plead guilty to criminal charges and pay a $17.7 million fine for conspiring to fix prices of heater control panels installed in cars sold in the U.S. and elsewhere, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Tokai Rika, based in Nagoya, Japan, in a filing today in federal court in Detroit, was charged with one count of conspiracy to restrain trade and one count of obstruction of justice. Heater control panels are located in the center console of an automobile and regulate the temperature of the interior environment of a vehicle.
“They knew their actions would harm American consumers, and attempted to cover it up when caught. The division will continue to hold accountable companies who engage in anticompetitive conduct and who obstruct law enforcement,” Scott D. Hammond, the head of criminal enforcement in the department’s antitrust division, said in an e-mailed statement.
Tokai Rika is among nine companies that have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the Obama administration’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry, according to the department. Eleven executives have also pleaded guilty and received prison sentences of one to two years. More than $790 million in fines have been imposed, according to the department.
A person who answered the phone at the company’s Plymouth, Michigan, office said Tokai Rika will post a statement on the case on its website later today. She said she was instructed to not give her name.
Tokai Rika engaged in a conspiracy by agreeing during meetings and conversations to rig bids and fix prices for heater control panels sold to Toyota in the U.S. and elsewhere, on a model-by-model basis, according to the court filing. Tokai Rika and its co-conspirators carried out the scheme from at least as early as September 2003 until at least February 2010, according to the filing.
“The conspirators used code names and chose meeting places and times to avoid detection,” Hammond said.
The case is U.S. v. Tokai Rika Co., 12-cr-20711, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).