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Hitachi Metals Will Plead Guilty to Price-Fixing

WASHINGTON - Hitachi Metals will pay the U.S. government $1.25 million for conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for a part installed in American Toyotas.

The Tokyo-based successor in interest to Hitachi Cable faces the fine after pleading guilty Friday to a one-count felony charge in Toledo, Ohio.

According to its plea, Hitachi conspired to fix the prices of automotive brake hose sold in the United States and elsewhere to Toyota Motor Corp. and certain of its subsidiaries, affiliates and suppliers.

Hitachi's cooperation in the Justice Department's ongoing investigation is also promised in the plea, which is subject to court approval.

The government had accused Hitachi and its co-conspirators of cooperating on bids and price quotations that they submitted to Toyota. They also agreed to allocate the supply of automotive brake hose.

Hitachi allegedly participated in the scheme to sell Toyota the automotive brake hose at noncompetitive prices from about November 2005 to September 2009.

The Justice Department defines brake hoses as "flexible hoses that carry brake fluid through the hydraulic brake system of automobiles."

Though the charges against Hitachi "are the first charges filed relating to automotive brake hose sold to automobile manufacturers," they are the latest in an ongoing "investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry," according to a statement by the government.

The ongoing investigation of automotive price fixing and bid rigging has led to charges against 44 individuals, guilty pleas from 30 companies, including Hitachi, and promises of nearly $2.4 billion in fines.

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