Kiekert AG, an automotive parts manufacturer based in Heiligenhaus, Germany, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to rig bids of side-door latches and latch minimodules installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Kiekert participated in a conspiracy to eliminate competition by agreeing to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices for side-door latches and latch minimodules sold to Ford Motor Company and its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere between September 2008 and May 2013. In addition to Kiekert’s agreement to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine, the manufacturer has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.
“The Antitrust Division has uncovered conspiracies involving more than 50 automotive parts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Automobile manufacturers, and the American consumers who buy their cars, are entitled to prices set by competition, not secret cartels.”
“Americans expect corporations in the United States and overseas to conduct their business honestly. To do anything less, compromises consumer trust,” said Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of FBI’s Detroit Division. “Today’s plea agreement of Kiekert AG, demonstrates the resolve of the FBI and the Department of Justice to protect American consumers from price fixing and bid rigging schemes that ultimately harm the U.S. economy.”
Side-door latches secure car doors to the body. Latch minimodules include the side-door latch and all related mechanical operating components, including the electronic lock function.
According to the charges, Kiekert officials participated in meetings and communications with representatives of another major side-door latch producer, during which they agreed to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices submitted to Ford. To effectuate those agreements, the conspirators exchanged information on bids and price quotations for submission to Ford.
Today’s charge 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 the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI. Including Kiekert, 48 companies and 65 executives have been charged in the division’s ongoing investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.9 billion in criminal fines.
These charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.