Panasonic Fined $56 Million for Price-Fixing

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Panasonic and its SANYO subsidiary will pays $56.5 million in criminal fines for fixing prices of auto parts and battery cells, the Justice Department said Thursday.
     There were two conspiracies, the Department of Justice said in a statement: Panasonic’s, on auto parts, and SANYO’s, on battery cells. Both companies are based in Osaka, Japan.
     Panasonic agreed to pay $45.8 million and SANYO to pay $10.7 million.
     A third company, LG Chem, agreed to plead guilty and pay a $1.1 criminal fine for the battery cell conspiracy.
     Panasonic was charged with three felonies in Detroit Federal Court. It will plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices in switches, steering angle sensors and high intensity discharge ballasts.
     SANYO and LG Chem will plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices of lithium ion battery cells used in computers.
     “Panasonic participated in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of steering wheel switches, turn switches, wiper switches, combination switches and door courtesy switches sold to Toyota,” the Justice Department said in the statement.
     The statement added: “Panasonic and its co-conspirators participated in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing, during meetings and conversations, to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of automotive HID [high intensity discharge] ballasts sold to Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and American Honda Motor Co. Inc., Mazda Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor of America Inc., and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Nissan North America Inc. in the United States and elsewhere.
     “Including Panasonic, 11 companies and 15 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $874 million in criminal fines as a result of the auto parts investigation.”
     Twelve people have been criminally fined and sentenced to one to two years in prison. The three other executives agreed to serve time in prison and are awaiting sentencing.

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