Executive of Japanese Automotive Parts Manufacturer Indicted for Role in Conspiracy to Fix Prices

A Detroit federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment against an executive of a Japanese manufacturer of automotive parts for his participation in a conspiracy to fix prices of seatbelts, the Department of Justice announced today.

The indictment, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, charges Hiromu Usuda, an executive at Takata Corp., with conspiring to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of, seatbelts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Company Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Mazda Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. – more commonly known by its brand name, Subaru – and/or certain of their subsidiaries, for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States and elsewhere.  Usuda served as Group and Department Manager in the Customer Relations Division at Takata, from January 2005 until at least February 2011.

“Antitrust violators who refuse to accept responsibility for their crimes leave us no choice but to indict,” said Brent Synder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “We will continue to prosecute those that commit these crimes.”

The indictment alleges, among other things, that from at least Jan. 1, 2005, through at least February 2011, Usuda and others attended meetings with co-conspirators and reached collusive agreements to rig bids, allocate the supply and fix the prices of seatbelts sold to the automobile manufacturers.  It alleges that Usuda participated directly in the conspiratorial conduct and that he directed, authorized and consented to his subordinates’ participation.

Takata is a Tokyo-based manufacturer of automotive parts, including seatbelts.  Takata supplies automotive parts to automobile manufacturers in the United States, in part, through its U.S. subsidiary, TK Holdings Inc., located in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  Takata pleaded guilty on Dec. 5, 2013, for its involvement in the conspiracy, and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $71.3 million.  Four other executives from Takata have pleaded guilty, have been sentenced to serve time in a U.S. prison and to pay criminal fines for their roles in the conspiracy.

Including Usuda, 50 individuals have been charged in the government’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry.  Additionally, 32 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.4 billion in fines.

Usuda is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals.  The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Today’s indictment is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by four of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  Today’s charge was brought by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to other products in the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323.

3C’s: Banks Found Not to Have Colluded

Banks Found Not to Have Colluded

I have really enjoyed publishing this blog.  One of the downsides is the embarrassment of an occasional typo, a problem with margins or other technical issues, or like yesterday, when I forgot to include a headline.  But, the  headline above is not a typo.  Banks have been found not to have colluded.

In India, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) dismissed allegations that banks had colluded had to control and determine prices in the gold loan business (here).  It is welcome to see the reasoning of the CCI:  “It may be observed that parallel behaviour needs to be substantiated with the additional evidence or the plus factors to bring it into the ambit of prohibited anti-competitive agreements.”

* * * * * Click Here for the Rest of the Story * * * * *

3C’s- Motorola Mobility and the FTAIA–Update

Motorola Mobility’s Petition for En Banc Review

This news is a bit dated, but on December 17, 2014 Motorola Mobility petitioned the Seventh Circuit for an en banc hearing of its price-fixing damages case against AU Optronics and other liquid-crystal-display panel makers. On November 26, 2014 a three-judge panel affirmed, on different grounds, its vacated opinion dismissing Motorola Mobility’s suit. In an opinion written by Judge Posner, the panel held that purchases by made overseas by Motorola’s foreign subsidiaries of panels that were incorporated into products subsequently shipped into the United States did not meet the second prong of the FTAIA requirements, that the effect of anticompetitive conduct give rise to an antitrust cause of action. 15 U.S.C. Section 6(a)(2). “Whether or not Motorola was harmed indirectly, the immediate victims of the price-fixing were its foreign subsidiaries.” Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp., 2014 WL 6678622 (7th Cir. 2014). In its petition for rehearing en banc, Motorola claims:

* * * * * Click Here For the Rest of the Story * * * * * 

Daiichi Sankyo Inc. Agrees to Pay $39 Million to Settle Kickback Allegations Under the False Claims Act

Daiichi Sankyo Inc., a global pharmaceutical company with its U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, has agreed to pay the United States and state Medicaid programs $39 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce physicians to prescribe Daiichi drugs, including Azor, Benicar, Tribenzor and Welchol, the Justice Department announced today.

“The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits payments intended to influence a physician’s ordering or prescribing decisions,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice is committed to preserving the independence and objectivity of those decisions, which are cornerstones of our public health programs.”

The Anti-Kickback Statute was enacted to ensure that physicians’ medical judgment is not compromised by improper payments and gifts by other health care providers.  The statute generally prohibits anyone from offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.

In this case, the government alleged that Daiichi paid physicians improper kickbacks in the form of speaker fees as part of Daiichi’s Physician Organization and Discussion programs, known as “PODs,” which were run from Jan. 1, 2005, through March 31, 2011, as well as other speaker programs that were run from Jan. 1, 2004, through Feb. 4, 2011.  Allegedly, payments were made to physicians even when physician participants in PODs took turns “speaking” on duplicative topics over Daiichi-paid dinners, the recipient spoke only to members of his or her own staff in his or her own office, or the associated dinner was so lavish that its cost exceeded Daiichi’s own internal cost limitation of $140 per person.

“Drug companies are prohibited from using lavish entertainment and padded speaker program payments to induce physicians to prescribe their drugs for beneficiaries of federal health care programs,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for the District of Massachusetts.  “Settlements like this one show that the government will continue to pursue health care companies that use kickbacks to promote their products.”

As part of the settlement, Daiichi has agreed to enter into a corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), which obligates the defendants to undertake substantial internal compliance reforms for the next five years.

“Schemes such as this are particularly abhorrent,” said Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “Manufacturers and physicians who engage in them are cheating Medicare and Medicaid out of millions of dollars and threatening programs upon which many elderly and disabled Americans rely.  My office will take whatever steps necessary to guard against improper alliances between manufacturers of drugs and those who prescribe them.  Through our corporate integrity agreement we will be closely monitoring Daiichi.”

The settlement announced today stems from a complaint filed by Kathy Fragoules, a former Daiichi sales representative, under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which authorize private parties to sue on behalf of the United States, and to receive a portion of any recovery.  Fragoules will receive $6.1 million of the federal recovery.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.3 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The investigation and litigation was conducted by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service, HHS-OIG and the FBI.  The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

The case is captioned U.S. ex rel. Fragoules v. Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., Civil Action No. 10-10420 (D. Mass.).


Owner of Miami Home Health Company Pleads Guilty for Role in $32 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A Miami owner of a home health care company pleaded guilty today in connection with a $32 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

Felix Gonzalez, 45, of Miami, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams of the Southern District of Florida.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 19, 2015.

According to his plea documents, Gonzalez was an owner of AA Advanced Care Inc. (AA Advanced), a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.  In connection with his guilty plea, Gonzalez admitted that he and his co-conspirators operated AA Advanced for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary or not provided at all.

Gonzalez further admitted that he negotiated and paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals, as well as prescriptions, plans of care (POCs) and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.  Gonzalez admitted that he and his co-conspirators used these prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services.

From approximately January 2006 through March 2009, AA Advanced submitted approximately $32 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary or not provided, and Medicare paid approximately $22 million for these fraudulent claims.

The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer and Trial Attorney Kelly Graves of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Former Owner and President of Pennsylvania Consulting Companies Charged with Foreign Bribery

The former owner and President of Chestnut Consulting Group Inc. and Chestnut Consulting Group Co. (generally referred to as the “Chestnut Group”) was indicted by a federal grand jury today for his alleged participation in a scheme to pay bribes to a foreign official in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Travel Act, and to launder proceeds of those crimes.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division made the announcement.

“We are committed to combating foreign corruption, across the globe and across all industries, through enforcement actions and prosecutions of companies and the individuals who run those companies,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “As alleged, in this case, the owner and chief executive of a Pennsylvania financial consulting firm secured hundreds of millions of dollars in business by bribing a European banking official.  He now faces an indictment for corruption in federal court.  Bribery of foreign officials undermines the public trust in government and fair competition in business.  The charges returned today reflect the clear message that we will root out corruption and prosecute individuals who violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

“We will aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals in our district who use corrupt means like bribery to influence foreign officials,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger.  “Our criminal statutes in this arena must be enforced to ensure fair dealing in a competitive global marketplace where foreign officials often hold significant decision-making authority.  The alleged conduct here was particularly reprehensible because it undermined the legitimacy of a process designed to support businesses for the citizens of developing nations.”

“This is a great example of the FBI’s ability to successfully coordinate with our international law enforcement partners to tackle corruption,” said Special Agent in Charge Hanko.  “Bribery – foreign or domestic – cripples the notion of fair competition in the marketplace.”

Dmitrij Harder, 42, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, the former owner and president of the Chestnut Group, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and Travel Act, five counts of violating the FCPA, five counts of violating the Travel Act, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and two counts of money laundering.

According to allegations in the indictment, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was a multilateral development bank headquartered in London, England, and was owned by over 60 sovereign nations.  Among other things, the EBRD provided financing for development projects in emerging economies, primarily in Eastern Europe.

According to allegations in the indictment, Harder and others paid bribes for the benefit of a senior official at the EBRD in exchange for influencing the official’s actions on applications for financing submitted by the Chestnut Group’s clients and for directing business to the Chestnut Group.  The EBRD ultimately approved applications for financing from two of the Chestnut Group’s corporate clients; the first resulted in the EBRD providing an $85 million investment and a 90 million Euro loan, while the second resulted in a $40 million investment and a $60 million convertible loan.  The Chestnut Group allegedly earned approximately $8 million in “success fees” as a result of the EBRD’s approval of these two applications.

The indictment alleges that Harder made five payments totaling more than $3.5 million to the sister of the EBRD official, in part as an effort to conceal the bribes.  These payments were allegedly made for purported consulting and other services provided to the Chestnut Group by the official’s sister, when in fact she provided no such services.  Harder also allegedly participated in creating fake documents to justify these payments.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Leo R. Tsao of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Morgan of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The 3C’s: An Overview of Japanese Cartel Regulation

Today’s guest blog post is by Masayuki Atsumi of the Japanese law firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto.  Mr. Atsumi was an attorney with the JFTC before private practice.


Japan is one of the most important jurisdictions in Asia in relation to cartel enforcement, but not many written materials articulate the details of Japanese cartel regulation.  As my first contribution to this blog, I would like to briefly provide an overview of Japanese cartel regulation, with a focus mainly on procedural and practical aspects.

  1. Prohibition on cartel activities

The Japanese Anti-Monopoly Act (“AMA”) prohibits, among other things, “unreasonable restraint of trade” which includes collusive activities such as cartels or bid-rigging. A cartel violation is not per se illegal in Japan because the AMA requires that the Japan Fair Trade Commission (“JFTC”), the Japanese antitrust enforcement body, must prove a “substantive restraint on competition in the relevant market” in order to find a violation.

* * * * * Click Here for the Rest of the Story * * * * *

U.S. Navy Commander Pleads Guilty in International Bribery Scandal

Second U.S. Navy Officer Indicted on Related Bribery Charges

A commander in the U.S. Navy pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges today, admitting that he provided a government contractor with classified ship schedules and other internal U.S. Navy information in exchange for cash, travel and entertainment expenses, as well as the services of prostitutes.  A second U.S. Navy officer was also indicted today on related bribery charges by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of California.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Deputy Inspector General of Investigations James B. Burch of the Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) made the announcement.

“Commander Sanchez sold out his command and country for cash bribes, luxury hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “After today’s guilty plea, instead of free stays at the Shangri-La hotel, Sanchez is facing many nights in federal prison.  The Department of Justice’s Criminal Division is committed to prosecuting those who abuse positions of public trust for personal enrichment at the expense of national security and the American taxpayers.”

“During the course of the investigation into this criminal enterprise, investigators have compiled voluminous evidence identifying multiple persons of interest, generating numerous leads, and establishing and corroborating connections,” said Director Traver.  “NCIS and our law enforcement partners are committed to seeing this massive fraud and bribery investigation through to its conclusion, so that those responsible are held accountable.”

“This outcome yet again sends the message that corruption will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said Deputy Inspector General of Investigations Burch.  “This is an unfortunate example of dishonorable Naval officers who recklessly risked the safety of our troops by trading classified information for cash, extravagant gifts and prostitutes.  Cases such as these are not motivated by need or other difficult personal circumstances; they are the product of simple greed.  This investigation should serve as a warning that those who compromise the integrity of the United States will face their day of reckoning.  DCIS and our law enforcement partners will pursue these crimes relentlessly.”

Jose Luis Sanchez, 42, an active duty U.S. Navy Officer stationed in San Diego, California, is one of seven defendants charged – and the fifth to plead guilty – in the corruption probe involving Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contractor based in Singapore that serviced U.S. Navy ships and submarines throughout the Pacific.  Sanchez pleaded guilty to bribery and bribery conspiracy before U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick of the Southern District of California.  A sentencing hearing was scheduled for March 27, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino.

According to his plea agreement, from April 2008 to April 2013, Sanchez held various logistical positions with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Asia.  Sanchez admitted that, beginning in September 2009, he entered into a bribery scheme with Leonard Glenn Francis, the CEO of GDMA, in which Sanchez provided classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and other sensitive U.S. Navy information to Francis and used his position and influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA.  In return, Francis gave him things of value such as cash, travel and entertainment expenses, and the services of prostitutes.  Sanchez admitted that this bribery scheme continued until September 2013.  Francis was charged in a complaint unsealed on Nov. 6, 2013, with conspiring to commit bribery; that charge remains pending.

In his plea agreement, Sanchez admitted to seven specific instances in which he provided Francis with classified U.S. Navy ship and submarine schedules.  He also admitted using his position and influence with the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA and Francis on various occasions.  Further, Sanchez admitted that he tipped Francis off about investigations into GDMA overbillings and briefed Francis on internal U.S. Navy deliberations.

Sanchez further admitted that, in exchange for this information, Francis provided him with cash, entertainment and stays at high-end hotels.  For example, in May 2012, Francis paid for Sanchez to stay five nights at the Shangri-La, a luxury hotel in Singapore, and, two months later, Francis paid for Sanchez’s travel from Asia to the United States, at a cost of over $7,500.  Additionally, Francis arranged and paid for the services of prostitutes for Sanchez while Sanchez was in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia.

In addition to Sanchez, two other U.S. Navy officials – former NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau and Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug – have pleaded guilty in connection with this investigation.Two former GDMA executives, Alex Wisidagama and Edmond Aruffo, have likewise pleaded guilty.

Also today, an indictment was returned against U.S. Navy Captain-Select Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, of San Diego, California, charging him with a bribery conspiracy and seven counts of bribery.  According to allegations in the indictment, from at least as early as July 2011 until  September 2013, Misiewicz provided classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and other sensitive U.S. Navy information to Francis and used his position and influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA.  In return Francis allegedly gave him things of value such as cash, travel and entertainment expenses, and the services of prostitutes.

The charges contained in a criminal complaint and indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by NCIS, DCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. The case is being prosecuted by Director of Procurement Fraud Catherine Votaw and Trial Attorney Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Robert S. Huie of the Southern District of California.