CCC: Some Comments from Brent Snyder, former Antitrust Division Criminal Deputy, as he Heads to the Hong Kong Competition Commission

Some Comments from Brent Snyder, former Antitrust Division Criminal Deputy, as he Heads to the Hong Kong Competition Commission

If you ever wanted to sell a student on pursuing a career in antitrust because of the interesting possibilities, Brent Snyder’s career (which is far from over) would be a good case in point.  Mr. Snyder graduated with Honors from the University of Texas School of Law, where he was an Associate Editor of the Texas Law Review. After completing a federal judicial clerkship, he began practicing as a private commercial litigator and in 2001 became a partner at Perkins Coie, a large Seattle law firm.  Mr. Snyder joined the Antitrust Division United States Department of Justice in 2003.   In June 2017 Mr. Snyder stepped down from the Antitrust Division and will be heading to Hong Kong.  On June 19, 2017, the Hong Kong Competition Commission announced the appointment of Mr. Snyder as its next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for a term of three years commencing 4 September 2017 (here).

Mr. Snyder had a remarkably successful career with Antitrust Division.  He started in 2003 as a trial attorney.  He was involved, both as a trial attorney and as a supervisor, in many successful cartel investigations and prosecutions.  He was part of the team that conducted the TFT-LCD international cartel investigation, which culminated in a conviction and a $500 million fine against AU Optronics.  Several AUO executives were also convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.  From 2013 until his departure, Mr. Snyder served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Enforcement overseeing all of the Division’s criminal investigations, prosecutions, leniency and other policy work.

Mr. Snyder is known to his friends as someone whose career has always focused on positions that would be interesting, provide new challenges and allow him to make a meaningful contribution.  On these scores, his going to Hong Kong is not surprising.  Hong Kong has a relatively new but robust competition enforcement regime. Full enforcement of the Hong Kong Competition Ordinance began only a little over 18 months ago and the Competition Commission has had positive results already.  Some of these results are outlined in the Commission’s March 2017 newsletter, “Competition Matters.”  The Competition Commission also has a very helpful website.

The Hong Kong Competition Commission has been very innovative during its short history.  The Commission created an educational video on “Fighting Bid Rigging Cartels,” which can be viewed here on You Tube.  The Commission’s “Fighting Bid-rigging Cartels” Campaign was named a winner in the category “Engaging through results: Successful experience in planning, implementing and monitoring advocacy strategies” in the Competition Advocacy Contest organised by the International Competition Network (ICN) and the World Bank Group (here).

Mr. Snyder will bring a great deal of valuable experience and perspective to the Hong Kong Competition Commission. Before heading off to Hong Kong, Mr. Snyder kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his experiences to date.

Q.     Can you talk about an experience you had in the Antitrust Division that might be your fondest memory?

First, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to Cartel Capers!  Your blog has been a great and influential addition to the antitrust landscape and facilitates discussion and thinking on important topics in our field. I appreciate your interest and am happy to answer your questions.

I suppose I should have an easy answer to this question, but it is hard to pick from so many great experiences over the years.  Anyone who has worked in the Division understands what a special place it is and the exciting things its attorneys get to do.

Running through the Honolulu airport to serve a grand jury subpoena on someone trying to hightail it out of the country, the excitement of trial wins, a karaoke celebration party with the AUO team, kayaking on a bio-luminescent bay in Puerto Rico with the Peake trial team, any number of memorable drop-in interviews, planning a successful undercover operation, and, most recently, a surprise farewell party complete with a hula dancer, ukulele player and Aloha-attired Division friends (people seem to think I have a thing for Aloha shirts for some reason 😉) all come to mind.

They all have one thing in common — that I was fortunate to be part of great teams. I can’t separate any memory from the fantastic people with whom I shared the experiences and accomplishments. Experiencing those things with people I like and respect are my fondest memories. I was just so fortunate to work for and with talented, hardworking, dedicated public servants who also are fun and have a great sense of humor (and/or high tolerance for mine). Anyone who knows me knows that I value that last part especially highly!

Q.     You’ve had several different positions in the Division, starting out as a trial attorney, rising to Criminal Deputy and even being Acting Assistant Attorney General for a time.  For the trial staff, what do you think are the biggest challenges they face today in cartel enforcement?

It is a great time to be a Trial Attorney because the Division has a number of really exciting investigations and plenty of cases going to trial.  But, as always, there are challenges.  I think some of the significant ones are:

  • Keeping up with the work, especially while the Division has so many cases in litigation, which pulls resources away from investigations;
  • The complexity of several of the schemes and industries under investigation, such as LIBOR and the foreign exchange spot market;
  • Coordinating and harmonizing investigations with an increasingly greater number and variety of enforcement and regulatory agencies, especially non-competition enforcement agencies; and
  • Keeping up with ever evolving technologies that cartelists are using to communicate and that are difficult to detect and penetrate.

I have been proud to see the Division’s attorneys overcome every challenge with determination and dedication and fully expect them to have a continued track record of great success in the future.

Q.     Overall, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Antitrust Division in its primary mission of cartel enforcement?

You raise one of them below — keeping the incentive strong to seek  leniency.

Another challenge is that the Division has lost many of its most experienced attorneys through retirements, office closures, and other attrition over the past several years.  Although the Division was able to hire a large number of exceptionally talented attorneys, the lost experience cannot immediately be replicated. The good news is that this challenge should be short term in nature. Recent trials and investigations have provided opportunities for the new attorneys to get tremendous experience, and the Division is on its way to having a really deep pool of accomplished prosecutors to go along with a skilled group of managers.

Finally, as I mentioned above, there is a much more crowded enforcement landscape today than there was even a few years ago. I am referring less to the emergence of new competition enforcers than to investigations involving a greater number and variety of other domestic and foreign enforcement agencies and regulators.  This results in greater harmonization challenges, and these investigations no doubt complicate the leniency calculus for companies that may face non-antitrust exposure from those regulators and enforcers for the same or related conduct.

Q.     Is there any one area of international enforcement harmonization or cooperation you’d hope to see improvement in among the world’s cartel enforcement agencies?

I think the quality and quantity of international cooperation is better than it has ever been. The Antitrust Division now routinely communicates and coordinates with enforcement agencies that it had little or no interaction with just a few years ago. I think this is testament to the rate at which agencies around the world are maturing and becoming involved in international investigations.

If there is one area that I would like to see improved, it would be in the area of witness interviews. As I have said at other times, I think enforcers can do a better and more efficient job of coordinating the timing of and approach to witness interviews among enforcement agencies. This would not only benefit our investigations but also be more cost effective and efficient for the witnesses and cooperating companies.

Q.     Do you think “leniency” has lost some of its appeal to potential cooperators? If so, can/should anything be done about that?

I don’t think leniency has lost its appeal. For a company confronted with exposure to a cartel offense and the resulting large fines, civil liability, and incarceration for executives, it is still a great opportunity.  And, I believe that companies and their counsel still see it as one.

But, as I mentioned above, the decision to seek leniency is undoubtedly more complicated than it has ever been as a result not only of the proliferation of competition enforcement agencies but also the more frequent involvement of other types of enforcement agencies and regulators in parallel investigations of the same conduct.  The proliferation of enforcement agencies increases the potential cost and burden of seeking leniency, and the involvement of other enforcement agencies and regulators increases the risk of liability not covered by leniency.

I think the expense and burden of multi-jurisdictional cartel investigations can be addressed through greater coordination and efficiency enhancements among competition enforcement agencies. I think that harmonizing leniency with non-competition enforcement agencies and regulators presents greater challenges, but I believe it will become easier as they have more experience with leniency and see its results.  I saw improvements in this area during my years as DAAG.

Finally, the best way to make leniency attractive is to prove you can and will detect and prosecute cartels even without a leniency applicant. The Antitrust Division has an excellent track record of doing so, and cartelists who choose not to seek leniency face a real risk of detection and prosecution.

Q.     As mentioned above with “Fighting Bid Rigging Cartels” video the Hong Kong Competition Commission has been innovative and active in public outreach.  Do you think that kind of outreach can be duplicated in the United States?

I have been really impressed by innovative public outreach efforts in other jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong, and have often wondered if they can be replicated here. Unfortunately, I am doubtful that they can be replicated here because the U.S. is so large and the channels for communicating to the general population are diffuse or prohibitively expensive.

Nonetheless, the Antitrust Division has prioritized making public outreach more systematic and diverse than in the past. I don’t think we’ll see any national ad campaigns or public service announcements from the Division, but I do think it will be finding ways to get in front of a greater number of groups and constituents than in the past.

I think this outreach is very important not only from the perspective of developing investigative leads but also to educate the public regarding the illegality of cartel offenses.  In 2015, Prof. Andreas Stephan of the University of East Anglia published an interesting survey of public attitudes to price fixing in the UK, Germany, Italy, and the U.S. which showed that the U.S. lags behind the other jurisdictions in knowledge that cartel conduct is illegal.  Outreach can certainly help with this.

Q.     You no doubt had many possible very lucrative opportunities upon leaving the Department of Justice.  Why did you chose to go to work with the Hong Kong Competition Commission? 

I thought it was an incredible and interesting opportunity to go from one of the most established and experienced agencies in the world to one of the newest. You’ve already noted that the Hong Kong Competition Commission has shown itself to be innovative and thoughtful during its relatively short existence. I am excited to get to contribute to what Stanley Wong, Rose Webb, and others have already begun to build there and hope to make good use of my experience at the Antitrust Division.

It should come as no surprise that I think the Antitrust Division is the finest competition enforcement agency in the world, but I jokingly told Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch that we’re going to try to knock them back to second best. 😀

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Thanks Brent.  Best of luck in the new position in Hong Kong!

CCC’s: Brent Snyder’s Remarks On Individual Accountability for Antitrust Crimes

Brent Snyder, the Antitrust Division’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Enforcement, made extended remarks today at the Yale Global Antitrust Enforcement Conference (here). Mr. Snyder emphasized that the Division has long believed, and acted on this belief, that holding individuals accountable for antitrust crimes was both appropriate and the best means of deterrence:

This emphasis on individual accountability is fundamental to Antitrust Division prosecutors. The division has long touted prison time for individuals as the single most effective deterrent to the “temptation to cheat the system and profit from collusion.” My predecessors ensured that this message was often repeated. To quote just one of them, Scott Hammond said that “[i]t is indisputable that the most effective deterrent to cartel offenses is to impose jail sentences on the individuals who commit them.”

Mr. Snyder also made the first remarks (I believe) on how the September 9, 2015 Yatesmemorandum (here) has affected Antitrust Division practices:

Our record with respect to individual accountability speaks for itself. But we are embracing the Deputy Attorney General’s directive to do even better. We have adopted new internal procedures to ensure that each of our criminal offices systematically identifies all potentially culpable individuals as early in the investigative process as feasible and that we bring cases against individuals as quickly as evidentiary sufficiency permits to minimize the risk that cases will be time-barred or that evidence will become stale from the passage of time. We are also undertaking a more comprehensive review of the organizational structure of culpable companies to ensure that we are identifying and investigating all senior executives who potentially condoned, directed, or participated in the criminal conduct.

It will be interesting to see how/if the Yates memo affects Division prosecution decisions in regard to how far down the cartel bench in a given company the Division may go to hold individuals accountable. After all, many cartels, particularly international cartels, can involve many employees (and former employees) of a firm.

It will also be interesting to see if the new policy memo has any effect on the Division’s Corporate Leniency Program. It can be argued that granting leniency to all culpable current employees of the leniency applicant is inconsistent with the Yates memo if the necessary cooperation could be gained at a lower cost. That may be a  topic covered in an upcoming ABA program: The DOJ Amnesty Program After The Yates Memo (here).

Thanks for reading.

SANDEN CORP. AGREES TO PLEAD GUILTY TO PRICE FIXING ON AUTOMOBILE PARTS INSTALLED IN U.S. CARS

Company Agrees to Pay $3.2 Million Criminal Fine

WASHINGTON — Sanden Corp., an automotive parts manufacturer based in Gunma, Japan, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $3.2 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition for the purchase of compressors used in air conditioning systems sold to Nissan North America Inc. for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Sanden conspired to fix the prices of compressors sold to Nissan.  In addition to the criminal fine, Sanden has agreed to cooperate in the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“Today’s charge is the latest in the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation of automobile parts suppliers,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The division continues to vigorously prosecute companies and individuals that seek to maximize their profits through illegal, anticompetitive means.”

The department said that Sanden and its co-conspirator held meetings and conversations to discuss and agree upon the bids and price quotations submitted to Nissan for the purchase of compressors used in automotive air conditioning systems.  Sanden’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from as early as August 2008 until at least April 2009.

Including Sanden, 33 companies and 50 individuals have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the automotive parts industry.  All of the charged companies have pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a combined total of more than $2.4 billion in fines.

Sanden is charged with fixing prices in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations.  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 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.  Today’s charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office and the FBI’s New York 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 the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1–888–647–3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s New York Field Office at 212-384-1000.

Northern California Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions

Investigations Have Yielded 51 Plea Agreements and Five Indictments to Date

A Northern California real estate investor pleaded guilty for his role in bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Charles Rock was indicted on Dec. 3, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, California.  The indictment alleged that Charles Rock and others agreed not to compete at public foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, California, and diverted money to themselves that should have gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.  Charles Rock pleaded guilty to one count of bid rigging and two counts of mail fraud.

To date, 51 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.  In addition, 21 real estate investors, including Charles Rock, have been charged in five multi-count indictments for their roles in bid-rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that as early as June 2008 until about January 2011, Charles Rock and others conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, negotiated payoffs for agreeing not to compete, held second, private auctions known as “rounds,” concealed those rounds and payoffs, and in the process, defrauded mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

“This is the first post-indictment plea resulting from the investigation and marks a positive step forward in resolving the case,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “It is important for those who conspired to profit from rigged bids and illegal payoffs to take responsibility for their actions.”

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than $1 million.  Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

Five Northern California Real Estate Investors Indicted for Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions

A federal grand jury in San Francisco returned a nine-count indictment against five real estate investors for their role in bid rigging and fraud at foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

The indictment, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, California, charges Northern California real estate investors John Michael Galloway, Nicholas Diaz, Glenn Guillory, Thomas Joyce and Charles Rock with participating in a conspiracy to rig bids and a scheme to defraud mortgage holders and others.  The indictment alleges that the defendants agreed not to compete at public foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, California, and diverted money to themselves and others that should have gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

To date, 50 individuals have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public foreclosure auctions in Northern California.  In addition, 21 real estate investors have been charged in five multi-count indictments for their roles in bid rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties.

“The Antitrust Division will continue to cooperate with its law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who undermine the competitive market for foreclosed properties,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “Public auctions are meant for the public, not for an elite group conspiring together for their own profit.”

The indictments allege, among other things, that as early as June 2008 until about January 2011, the defendants conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, negotiated payoffs for agreeing not to compete, held second, private auctions known as “rounds,” concealed those rounds and payoffs, and, in the process, defrauded mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

Each violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the mail fraud schemes.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE INVESTOR AGREES TO PLEAD GUILTY TO BID RIGGING AND FRAUD AT PUBLIC FORECLOSURE AUCTIONS

WASHINGTON — A Northern California real estate investor has agreed to plead guilty for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland against Garry Wan of Concord, California.  To date, 50 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty, as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.

According to court documents, beginning as early as May 2008 until January 2011, Wan conspired with others not to bid against one another, and instead designate a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Alameda County.  Wan was also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Alameda County properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy.  The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions.  The private auctions often took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held.

“While there has been a lengthy series of guilty pleas by the participants in this activity, the division’s work is not yet over,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute collusion at real estate foreclosure auctions, which allow the conspirators to profit from illegal payoffs at the expense of financial institutions and distressed homeowners.”

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and eliminate competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Alameda County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices. When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner. According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than $1 million.  A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

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T.RAD Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging and Price Fixing on Automobile Parts Installed in U.S. Cars

An executive of Japan-based T.RAD Co. Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty and to serve one year and one day in a U.S. prison for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of radiators installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

A one-count felony charge was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit against Kosei Tamura, a general manager for T.RAD.  According to the charge, Tamura, a Japanese national, conspired from as early as November 2002 until at least February 2010, by agreeing to allocate bids for, and prices of, radiators sold to Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and certain of its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere.  In addition to the prison sentence, Tamura has agreed to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“Companies and their executives should do their part to ensure American consumers are guaranteed a fair marketplace within the automotive industry,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The Antitrust Division will continue to hold accountable the companies and executives who ignore these laws in order to make this a reality.”

T.RAD is a manufacturer of radiators and was engaged in the sale of radiators in the United States and elsewhere.  Radiators are devices located in the engine compartment of a vehicle that cool the engine.

In November 2013, T.RAD pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $13.75 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of radiators and automatic transmission fluid warmers.

Including today’s charges, 48 individuals have been charged in the department’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.

Tamura is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for an individual 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.

The current prosecution arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by each of the Antitrust Division’s criminal sections and the FBI.  This case was brought by the Washington Criminal I Section of the Antitrust Division with the assistance of the Detroit Field Office of the FBI.  Anyone with information concerning the focus of this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the Detroit Field Office of the FBI at 313-965-2323.

Former Mitsuba Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging and Price Fixing on Automobile Parts Installed in U.S. Cars

A former executive of Japan-based Mitsuba Corporation has agreed to plead guilty and serve 13 months in a U.S. prison for conspiring to fix the prices of products installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

A one-count felony charge was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit against Kazumi Umahashi, a Japanese national and former General Manager of Mitsuba.  Umahashi conspired from in or about June 2005 to in or about December 2009 by agreeing upon bids and prices for, and allocating the supply of, windshield wiper systems and starter motors sold to Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries and affiliates in the United States and elsewhere, according to the charge.  Umahashi also has agreed to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“The Antitrust Division has uncovered dozens of conspiracies to fix prices in the automotive industry,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The impact of these schemes has affected nearly every American.  We will continue our efforts to hold culpable companies and individuals accountable for their illegal actions.”

Mitsuba manufactures and sells a variety of automotive parts, including starter motors, which are small electric motors used in internal combustion engines, and windshield wiper systems.  On Nov. 6, 2013, Mitsuba pleaded guilty for its involvement in the conspiracy and agreed to pay $135 million in criminal fines.

Umahashi is charged with price fixing and bid rigging in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence for individuals of 10 years and a fine of $1 million.  The maximum fine for an individual 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.

Including today’s charges, 48 individuals have been charged in the department’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.

This prosecution arose from 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.  Today’s charge was brought by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section with the assistance of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and 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 Detroit Field Office of the FBI at 313-965-2323.

Continental Automotive Electronics and Continental Automotive Korea Agree to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging on Instrument Panel Clusters

Continental Automotive Electronics LLC and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd. both have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a single criminal fine of $4 million for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids of instrument panel clusters installed in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division, Continental Automotive Electronics LLC, based in Cheongwon, South Korea, and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd., based in Seongnam-si, South Korea, conspired to rig bids for instrument panel clusters sold to Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia in the United States and elsewhere.  In addition to the criminal fine, the companies have agreed to cooperate in the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“As the Antitrust Division’s prosecution of auto parts matters like this one demonstrates, we will prosecute those who participate in international cartels targeting U.S. businesses and consumers,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The Antitrust Division is working closely with competition enforcers around the world to ensure that companies and executives that engage in international cartel crimes find no refuge.”

The charged companies have acknowledged that they and their co-conspirators held meetings and conversations to discuss and agree upon allocation of sales of instrument panel clusters, and the bids and price quotations each would submit.  The charged companies’ involvement in the conspiracy began as early as March 2004 and continued until May 2012.

Instrument panel clusters are a set of instruments located on the dashboard of a vehicle that contain gauges such as a speedometer, tachometer, odometer, and fuel gauge, as well as warning indicators for gearshift position, seat belt, parking-brake engagement, engine malfunction, low fuel, low oil pressure and low tire pressure.

Including Continental Automotive Electronics LLC and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd., 32 companies and 46 executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the automotive parts industry.  Each of the charged companies have either pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion in criminal fines.  Of the 46 individuals, 26 have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons.

Continental Automotive Electronics LLC and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd. are charged with bid rigging in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries maximum penalties of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations.  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.

The charges are 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 each of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  Today’s charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Montgomery, Alabama 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 1–888–647–3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Montgomery, Alabama Field Office at 334-263-1691.

Two Northern California Real Estate Investors Agree to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions

Two Northern California real estate investors have agreed to plead guilty for their role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland against Su Chu Chou “Terry” Cheng and Chung Li “George” Cheng of Walnut Creek, California.

To date, as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, 49 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty.

Between May 2008 and January 2011, according to the court documents, George and Terry Cheng conspired with others not to bid against one another, and instead designated a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.  George and Terry Cheng were also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Alameda and Contra Costa County properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy.  The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions.  The private auctions often took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held.

“The Antitrust Division continues to vigorously pursue and prosecute those who rig bids and commit fraud at real estate foreclosure auctions,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The division is committed to working closely with its law enforcement partners to ensure that these real estate auctions are fair and open so that consumers will benefit from competition.”

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and eliminate competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Alameda and Contra Costa County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices.  When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.  These conspirators paid and received money, according to the court documents, that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.  A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.