Bridgestone to Pay $425 Million Fine in Price-Fixing Case

Bridgestone Corp., the Tokyo-based tiremaker, agreed to pay a $425 million fine and plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices for auto parts in a U.S. criminal probe that has ensnared more than two dozen companies.

Bridgestone engaged in a conspiracy to allocate sales and fix prices of anti-vibration rubber parts installed in cars sold to automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., the Justice Department said in a statement today.

“The illegal activity in this case threatened the basic tenet of free competition,” Stephen Anthony, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Cleveland, Ohio, said in the statement.

The Bridgestone case stems from the Justice Department’s ongoing antitrust investigation into price-fixing and bid-rigging in the auto-parts industry. Including Bridgestone, 26 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty, and 28 individuals have been charged, according to the government. Companies have agreed to pay more than $2 billion in fines.

Bridgestone said in a statement that it has been cooperating with the Justice Department since May 2012. Certain board members and corporate officers are forgoing bonuses and forfeiting a portion of their compensation to “underscore the company’s sincere regret for this incident.”

Compliance Initiative

Bridgestone “is confident that the activities which led to the charges ceased in 2008, following full implementation of Bridgestone’s global compliance initiative,” it said.

In October 2011, Bridgestone pleaded guilty and paid a $28 million fine for price-fixing and violating anti-bribery laws. At the time, it didn’t disclose that it had also participated in the anti-vibration rubber parts conspiracy, the U.S. said.

The U.S. said Bridgestone’s involvement in the conspiracy took place between 2001 and at least December 2008, according to a court filing.

“The antitrust division will take a hard line when repeat offenders fail to disclose additional anticompetitive behavior,” Brent Snyder, who oversees criminal enforcement at the division, said in the statement.

The case is U.S. v. Bridgestone Corp., 14-cr-68, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Toledo)

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