Two New Jersey Investors Plead Guilty for Their Roles in Bid-rigging Schemes at Municipal Tax Lien Auctions

Two financial investors who purchased municipal tax liens pleaded guilty today for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids at auctions conducted by New Jersey municipalities for the sale of those tax liens, the Department of Justice announced.

A felony charge was filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark, against Robert U. Del Vecchio Sr., of Hawthorne, N.J. According to the charge, from in or about 2000 until approximately December 2008, Del Vecchio Sr. participated in a conspiracy to rig bids at auctions for the sale of municipal tax liens in New Jersey by agreeing to allocate among certain bidders which liens each would bid on.  Additionally, a felony charge was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark, against Michael Mastellone, of Cedar Knolls, N.J. for participating in a similar conspiracy from in or about 2000 until approximately February 2009.  The department said that Del Vecchio Sr. and Mastellone proceeded to submit bids in accordance with the agreements and purchased tax liens at collusive and non-competitive interest rates.

“By conspiring to rig the bids of municipal tax liens, the conspirators profited at the expense of those already struggling financially,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “Protecting Americans from these types of bid-rigging schemes remains a high priority for the division.”

The department said the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition in order to obtain selected municipal tax liens offered at public auctions at non-competitive interest rates.  When the owner of real property fails to pay taxes on that property, the municipality in which the property is located may attach a lien for the amount of the unpaid taxes.  If the taxes remain unpaid after a waiting period, the lien may be sold at auction.  State law requires that investors bid on the interest rate delinquent property owners will pay upon redemption.  By law, the bid opens at 18 percent interest and, through a competitive bidding process, can be driven down to zero percent.  If a lien remains unpaid after a certain period of time, the investor who purchased the lien may begin foreclosure proceedings against the property to which the lien is attached.

According to the court documents, Del Vecchio Sr. and Mastellone were involved in the conspiracy with others not to bid against one another at municipal tax lien auctions in New Jersey.  Since the conspiracy permitted the conspirators to purchase tax liens with limited competition, each conspirator was able to obtain liens which earned a higher interest rate.  Property owners were therefore made to pay higher interest on their tax debts than they would have paid had their liens been purchased in open and honest competition, the department said.

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 a Sherman Act violation 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 the $1 million statutory maximum.

Today’s pleas are the 13th and 14th guilty pleas resulting from an ongoing investigation into bid rigging or fraud related to municipal tax lien auctions.  Nine individuals – Isadore H. May, Richard J. Pisciotta Jr., William A. Collins, Robert W. Stein, David M. Farber, Robert E. Rothman, Stephen E. Hruby, David Butler and Norman T. Remick – and three companies –  DSBD LLC, Crusader Servicing Corp. and Mercer S.M.E. Inc. – have previously pleaded guilty as part of this investigation.    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.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office and the FBI’s Atlantic City, N.J., office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to municipal tax lien auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s New York Office at 212-335-8000, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm or contact the Atlantic City Resident Agency of the FBI at 609-677-6400.

NINE AUTOMOBILE PARTS MANUFACTURERS AND TWO EXECUTIVES AGREE TO PLEAD GUILTY TO FIXING PRICES ON AUTOMOBILE PARTS SOLD TO U.S. CAR MANUFACTURERS AND INSTALLED IN U.S. CARS

WASHINGTON — Nine Japan-based companies and two executives have agreed to  plead guilty and to pay a total of more than $740 million in criminal fines for  their roles in separate conspiracies to fix the prices of more than 30 different  products sold to U.S. car manufacturers and installed in cars sold in the  United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.  The department said that price-fixed automobile  parts were sold to Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, as well as to the  U.S. subsidiaries of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Fuji Heavy  Industries–more commonly known by its brand name, Subaru.

“These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more  than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers, and more  than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the  illegal conduct,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “The Department of Justice will continue to  crack down on cartel behavior that causes American consumers and businesses to  pay higher prices for the products and services they rely upon in their  everyday lives.”

“Some of the price-fixing conspiracies  lasted for a decade or longer, and many car models were fitted with multiple  parts that were fixed by the auto parts suppliers,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy  Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement  program.  “The Antitrust Division has  worked hand in hand with its international competition colleagues who have  provided invaluable assistance to the Justice Department in breaking up these worldwide  price-fixing cartels.”

“Today’s  charges should send a message to companies who believe they don’t need to  follow the rules,” said Ronald Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal  Division.  “If you violate the laws of  this country, the FBI will investigate and put a stop to the threat you pose to  our commercial system.  The integrity of  our markets is a part of the foundation of a free society.”

Including those announced today, 20 companies and 21 executives have been charged in the Antitrust Division’s  ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts  industry.  All 20 companies have either  pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay more than $1.6  billion in criminal fines.  Seventeen of  the 21 executives have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons or have  entered into plea agreements calling for significant prison sentences.

Each of the companies and executives  charged today has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing antitrust investigation.  The plea agreements are subject to court approval.  The companies’ and executives’ agreed-upon fines and sentences are:

  • Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. to pay a $195 million criminal fine;
  • Jtekt Corporation to pay a $103.27 million criminal fine;
  • Mitsuba Corporation to pay a $135 million criminal fine;
  • Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) to pay a $190 million criminal fine;
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to pay a $14.5 million criminal fine;
  • NSK Ltd. to pay a $68.2 million criminal fine;
  • T.RAD Co. Ltd. to pay a $13.75 criminal fine;
  • Valeo Japan Co. Ltd. to pay a $13.6 million criminal fine;
  • Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd. to pay a $11 million criminal fine;
  • Tetsuya Kunida, a Japanese citizen and former executive of a U.S. subsidiary of a Japan-based automotive       anti-vibration rubber products supplier to serve 12 months and one day in a U.S. prison, and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine; and
  • Gary Walker, a U.S. citizen and former executive of a U.S. subsidiary of a Japan-based automotive products supplier to serve 14 months in a U.S. prison, and to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.

MELCO and Hitachi conspired with each other and other  co-conspirator firms not charged today on sales of certain auto parts,  including starter motors, alternators, and ignition coils, the department said. Mitsuba and Mitsubishi Electric conspired together and with other  co-conspirators not charged today on certain sales of starter motors.  Each of the other companies charged today  colluded with other unnamed co-conspirators.

Generally, the companies, executives and co-conspirators  engaged in the various price-fixing schemes by attending meetings and  communicating by telephone in the United States and Japan to reach collusive  agreements to rig bids, set prices and allocate the supply of auto parts sold  to the car manufacturers.  They took  measures to keep their conduct secret by using code names and meeting in remote  locations.  Those charged also had  further communications to monitor and enforce the collusive agreements.

The multiple conspiracies also harmed U.S. automobile plants  in 14 states: Alabama; California; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Kansas;  Kentucky; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri; Ohio; Tennessee; Texas and  Wisconsin, the department said.

The department has coordinated  its investigation with the Japanese Fair Trade Commission, the European  Commission, Canadian Competition Bureau, Korean Fair Trade Commission, Mexican Federal  Economic Competition Commission and Australian Competition and Consumer  Commission.

The following charges were filed today in U.S. District Court  for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit:

Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd.

According to a one-count  felony charge, Hitachi and co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy, by agreeing  during meetings and conversations, to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and  maintain the prices of auto parts it sold to Ford, General Motors, Honda,  Nissan and Toyota, in the United States and elsewhere. The affected auto  parts include starter motors, alternators, air flow meters, valve timing  control devices, fuel injection systems, electronic throttle bodies, ignition  coils, inverters and motor generators. According to the charge, Hitachi and its  co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from at least as early as January 2000  until at least February 2010.

Hitachi manufactures and sells auto parts to automobile manufacturers  throughout the world. The affected auto parts perform an array of  functions in automobile engines, from regulating air and fuel flow to starting  the engine to controlling the timing of engine valves.

Mitsuba  Corporation

According to a two-count felony charge,  Mitsuba and co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy, by agreeing during  meetings and conversations, to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain  the prices of windshield washer systems and components, windshield wiper  systems and components, starter motors, power window motors, and fan motors it  sold to Chrysler, Honda, Subaru, Nissan and  Toyota in the United States and elsewhere. According to the charge,  Mitsuba and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from January 2000  until February 2010.  Mitsuba also agreed  to plead guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, because of the  company’s efforts to destroy evidence ordered by a high-level U.S.-based  executive after learning of the U.S. investigation of collusion in the auto  parts industry.

Mitsuba manufactures and sells numerous automotive parts to automobile  manufacturers throughout the world.  The  affected auto parts perform an array of functions in automobiles.  Windshield washer and wiper systems include a  number of components and are designed to clear water or snow from vehicle  windows.  Starter motors are small  electric motors used in starting internal combustion engines.  Power window motors are small electric motors  used to raise and lower vehicle windows.   Fan motors are small electric motors used to turn radiator cooling fans.

Mitsubishi  Electric Corporation (MELCO)

According to a one-count felony charge, MELCO and co-conspirators engaged  in a conspiracy, by agreeing during meetings and conversations, to rig bids  for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of automotive parts,  including starter motors, alternators and ignition coils, it sold to Chrysler, Ford,  General Motors, Honda, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (Subaru), Nissan, and certain  of their subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere. According to  the charge, MELCO and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from at  least as early as January 2000 until at least February 2010.

MELCO manufactures and sells automotive parts, including starter  motors, alternators, and ignition coils. Starter motors are small  electric motors used in starting internal combustion engines. Alternators  generate an electric current while the engine is in operation.  Ignition coils are part of the fuel ignition  system and release electric energy suddenly to ignite a fuel mixture.

Mitsubishi  Heavy Industries Ltd.

According to a one-count felony charge, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries  Ltd. (MHI) and co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy, by agreeing during  meetings and conversations, to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain  the prices of compressors and condensers it sold to General Motors and  Mitsubishi Motors North America in the United States and elsewhere.  According to the charge, MHI and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy  from at least as early as January 2001 until at least February 2010.

MHI manufactures and sells compressors and condensers. A  compressor produces and circulates highly pressurized refrigerant gas  throughout the car air conditioning system. A condenser cools the engine  by condensing the refrigerant gas into liquid and releasing heat.

T.RAD  Co. Ltd.

According to a  one-count felony charge, T.RAD Co. Ltd. and co-conspirators engaged in a  conspiracy, by agreeing during meetings and conversations, to rig bids for, and  to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of radiators it sold to Toyota and  Honda and the prices of automatic transmission fluid warmers (ATF warmers) sold  to Toyota in the United States and elsewhere. According to the charge, T.RAD  and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from November 2002 until  February 2010.

T.RAD manufactures and sells heat exchangers, including radiators and  ATF Warmers. Radiators are devices  located in the engine compartment of a vehicle that cool the engine. ATF warmers are devices located in the engine compartment of  a vehicle that warm the automatic transmission fluid.

Valeo  Japan Co. Ltd.

According to a  one-count felony charge, Valeo Japan Co. Ltd. and co-conspirators engaged in a  conspiracy, by agreeing during meetings and conversations, to allocate the  supply of, rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of air  conditioning systems it sold to Nissan North America Inc., Suzuki Motor  Corporation and Subaru, in the United States and elsewhere.  According to the charge, Valeo and its  co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from April 2006 until February 2010.

Valeo was engaged in the manufacture and sale of automotive air conditioning  systems, which are systems that cool the interior environment of a  vehicle. Air conditioning systems, whether sold together or separately,  are defined as automotive compressors, condensers, HVAC units (typically  consisting of a blower motor, actuators, flaps, evaporator, heater core, and  filter embedded in a plastic housing), control panels, sensors and associated  hoses and pipes.

Gary  Walker

According to a  one-count felony charge, Gary Walker, a U.S. citizen and former executive of a  U.S. subsidiary of a Japan-based automotive products supplier, engaged in a  conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of  seatbelts sold to Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota in the United States  and elsewhere. According to the charge, Walker and his co-conspirators  carried out the conspiracy from at least Jan. 1, 2003 until at least February  2010.

The  following charges were filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern  District of Ohio in Cincinnati:

Jtekt  Corporation

According to  a two-count felony charge, Jtekt and co-conspirators engaged in a  conspiracy, by agreeing during meetings and conversations, to allocate  markets, to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of bearings it  sold to Toyota and electric powered steering assemblies it sold to Nissan,  in the United States and elsewhere. According to the charge, Jtekt and its  co-conspirators carried out the bearings conspiracy from 2000 until July 2011  and the steering assemblies conspiracy from 2005 until October 2011.

Jtekt manufactures and sells bearings and steering assemblies.  Bearings are widely used in industry in numerous  applications for many products. Bearings reduce friction and help  components to roll smoothly past on another.   Electric powered steering assemblies provide electric power to  help the driver more easily steer the automobile. Electric powered  steering assemblies link the steering wheel to the tires, and include the  column, intermediate shaft and electronic control unit, among other parts, but  do not include the steering wheel or tires.

NSK  Ltd.

According to a one-count felony  charge, NSK and co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy, by agreeing during  meetings and conversations, to allocate markets, to rig bids for, and to  fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of bearings it sold to Toyota, in the United States and  elsewhere.  NSK manufactures and sells bearings.  According to the charge, NSK and its  co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from 2000 until July 2011.

The  following charges were filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern  District of Ohio in Toledo:

Yamashita  Rubber Co. Ltd.

According to a one-count felony charge, Yamashita Rubber Co. Ltd. and  co-conspirators engaged in a conspiracy, by agreeing during meetings and  conversations, to rig bids for, and to fix, raise, and maintain the prices of  automotive anti-vibration rubber products it sold in the United States and  elsewhere to Honda Motor Co. Ltd., American Honda Motor Company Inc. and Suzuki  Motor Corporation.  According to the  charge, Yamashita Rubber Co. and its co-conspirators carried out the  conspiracy from at least April 2003 until May 2012.

Automotive anti-vibration rubber products are comprised primarily of  rubber and metal, and are installed in automobiles to reduce engine and road  vibration.

Tetsuya  Kunida

According to a  one-count felony charge, Tetsuya Kunida, a former executive of a U.S.  subsidiary of a Japan-based automotive anti-vibration rubber products supplier,  engaged in a conspiracy, by agreeing during meetings and conversations, to rig  bids for, and to fix, raise, and maintain the prices of automotive  anti-vibration rubber products.  The  conspiracy affected sales of automotive anti-vibration rubber products to  Toyota Motor Corporation and other automakers in the United States and  elsewhere.  ccording to the charge,  Kunida and his co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from at least  November 2001 until May 2012.

DENSO Corporation, Nippon Seiki Ltd., Tokai Rika Co. Ltd.,  Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd, Yazaki Corp., G.S. Electech Inc., Fujikura Ltd.,  Autoliv Inc., TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Diamond Electric Mfg. Co. Ltd., and  Panasonic Corporation have already pleaded guilty. Fifteen individuals  have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve prison sentences ranging  from a year and a day to two years each.

The companies and individuals are charged with price fixing  in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries maximum penalties of a $100  million criminal fine for corporations and a $1 million criminal fine and 10  years in prison 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.  Additionally, Mitsuba was also  charged with obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of a $500,000  criminal 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, New York Office, the National Criminal Enforcement Section, and the  FBI’s Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, New York and Washington Field Offices,  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 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.

ICAP Brokers Face Felony Charges for Alleged Long-Running Manipulation of LIBOR Interest Rates

Two former derivatives brokers and a former cash broker employed by London-based brokerage firm ICAP were charged as part of the ongoing criminal investigation into the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), the Justice Department announced today.

Darrell Read, who resides in New Zealand, and Daniel Wilkinson and Colin Goodman, both of England, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud in a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court earlier today.  They each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for each count upon conviction.

“By allegedly participating in a scheme to manipulate benchmark interest rates for financial gain, these defendants undermined the integrity of the global markets,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “They were supposed to be honest brokers, but instead, they put their own financial interests ahead of that larger responsibility.  And as a result, transactions and financial products around the world were compromised, because they were tied to a rate that was distorted due to the brokers’ dishonesty.  These charges underscore the Justice Department’s determination to hold accountable all those whose conduct threatens the integrity of our financial markets.”

“These three men are accused of repeatedly and deliberately spreading false information to banks and investors around the world in order to fraudulently move the market and help their client fleece his counterparties,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Our criminal investigation of the manipulation of LIBOR by some of the largest banks in the world has led us from New York to London, to Tokyo, and other financial hubs around the globe.  These important charges are just the latest law-enforcement action in the Criminal Division and Antitrust Division’s global LIBOR investigation, and reflect the Department’s continued dedication to detecting, and prosecuting, financial fraudsters who affect U.S. markets, whether they work at a bank, or a brokerage, and whether they carry out their fraud from a desk in the United States, or abroad.”

“The complaint unsealed today charges Colin Goodman, Daniel Wilkinson and Darrell Read for conspiring to manipulate benchmark interest rates that determined the profitability of their client’s trades,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “In exchange for bigger bonus checks, the three defendants undermined financial markets around the world by compromising the integrity of globally used interest rate benchmarks.  The Department continues to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the interest of American citizens in free and fair financial markets.”

“Corporate and securities fraud involving the manipulation of these rates causes a worldwide impact on trading positions and erodes the integrity of the market and confidence in Wall Street,” said Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “Unraveling such complex financial schemes is difficult and time consuming.  Today’s charges are the result of the hard work of the FBI special agents and forensic accountants who dedicated significant time and resources to investigating this case.”

According to the criminal complaint, LIBOR is an average interest rate, calculated based on submissions from leading banks around the world, reflecting the rates those banks believe they would be charged if borrowing from other banks.  LIBOR is published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), a trade association based in London.  At the time relevant to the criminal complaint, LIBOR was calculated for 10 currencies at 15 borrowing periods, known as maturities, ranging from overnight to one year.  The published LIBOR “fix” for a given currency at a specific maturity is the result of a calculation based upon submissions from a panel of banks for that currency (the contributor panel) selected by the BBA.

LIBOR serves as the primary benchmark for short-term interest rates globally and is used as a reference rate for many interest rate contracts, mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other consumer lending products.  The Bank of International Settlements estimated that as of the second half of 2009, outstanding interest rate contracts were estimated at approximately $450 trillion.

According to allegations in the criminal complaint filed in this case, between July 2006 and September 2010, Wilkinson was a desk director employed in the London office of ICAP, where he supervised a group of derivatives brokers – including Read – specializing in Yen-based financial products.  Generally, the desk’s clients were derivatives traders at large financial institutions, and the transactions brokered by Wilkinson, Read and others on the desk essentially consisted of bets between traders on the direction in which Yen LIBOR would move.  Between July 2006 and September 2009, the desk’s largest client was a senior trader at UBS (UBS Trader) in Tokyo, to whom Read spoke almost daily.  Because of the large size of the client’s trading positions, even slight moves of a fraction of a percent in Yen LIBOR could generate large profits.  For example, UBS Trader once told Read that a 0.01 percent – or one basis point – movement in the final Yen LIBOR fixing on a specific date could result in $3 million profit for his trading positions.  A significant part of both Read’s and Wilkinson’s compensation was tied to the brokerage fees generated by UBS Trader and paid to ICAP.

Goodman was a cash broker at ICAP’s London office during the relevant time period.  In addition to brokering cash transactions, Goodman distributed a daily email to individuals outside of ICAP, including derivatives traders at several large banks as well as those responsible for providing the BBA with LIBOR submissions at certain banks.  Goodman’s email contained what was termed his “SUGGESTED LIBORS,” purported predictions of where Yen LIBOR ultimately would fix each day across eight specified borrowing periods.  Read and Wilkinson, along with Goodman himself, often referred to Goodman as “lord libor.”

The complaint alleges that Read, Wilkinson and Goodman, together with UBS Trader, executed a sustained and systematic scheme to move Yen LIBOR in a direction favorable to UBS Trader’s trading positions.

According to the criminal complaint, the primary strategy employed by Read, Wilkinson and Goodman to execute the scheme was to use Goodman’s “SUGGESTED LIBORS” email to disseminate misinformation to Yen LIBOR panel banks in hopes that the banks would rely on the misinformation when making their own respective Yen LIBOR submissions to the BBA for inclusion in the published fix.  Rather than providing good faith predictions as to where Yen LIBOR would fix, Goodman instead often used his daily email to set forth predictions which benefitted UBS Trader’s trading positions.

Beginning in or about June 2007, Goodman was paid a bonus through the desk Wilkinson supervised, allegedly intended, at least in part, to reward Goodman for his role in their effort to influence and manipulate the published Yen LIBOR fix.

As a second strategy, Read and Wilkinson allegedly further agreed to contact interest rate derivatives traders and submitters employed at Yen LIBOR panel banks in an effort to cause them to make false and misleading submissions to the BBA at UBS Trader’s behest.

As alleged in the charging document, Read, Wilkinson, Goodman, UBS Trader, and other co-conspirators often executed their scheme through electronic chats and email exchanges.  For example, on June 28, 2007, in an email message, Read told Wilkinson: “DAN THIS IS GETTING SERIOUS [UBS TRADER] IS NOT HAPPY WITH THE WAY THINGS ARE PROGRESSING . . . CAN YOU PLEASE GET HOLD OF COLIN AND GET HIM TO SEND OUT 6 MOS LIBOR AT 0.865 AND TO GET HIS BANKS SETTING IT HIGH. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE [UBS TRADER] IS QUESTIONING MY (AND OUR) WORTH.”

The complaint alleges that the defendants were aware of the effects that Goodman’s false and fraudulent “SUGGESTED LIBORS” had on submissions by Yen LIBOR panel banks.  For example, on Nov. 20, 2008, Read asked UBS Trader, “you have a really big fix tonight I believe? if Colin sends out 6m at a more realistic level than 1.10 [%] i reckon [the two panel banks] will parrot him, it might mean 6m coming down a bit.” On the following day, Nov. 21, 2008, Goodman moved his suggestion for 6-month Yen LIBOR down by nine basis points.  The two other banks mirrored Goodman’s suggestion, moving their 6-month Yen LIBOR submissions down by nine basis points.

According to allegations in the complaint, Read counseled UBS Trader how to most effectively manipulate Yen LIBOR.  For example, UBS Trader told Read in a July 22, 2009, electronic chat that “11th aug is the big date…i still have lots of 6m fixings till the 10th.”   Read responded to UBS Trader, “if you drop [UBS’s] 6m dramatically on the 11th mate, it will look v fishy… .  I’d be v careful how you play it, there might be cause for a drop as you cross into a new month but a couple of weeks in might get people questioning you.”  UBS Trader replied, “don’t worry will stagger the drops…ie 5bp then 5bp,” and Read told UBS Trader, “ok mate, don’t want you getting into [expletive].”  UBS Trader again assured Read that UBS and two additional panel banks would stagger their drops in coordination, and Read concluded, “great the plan is hatched and sounds sensible.”

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted.

The investigation is being conducted by special agents, forensic accountants, and intelligence analysts of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  The prosecution is being handled by Deputy Chief William Stellmach and Trial Attorney Sandra L. Moser of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorneys Eric Schleef and Kristina Srica of the Antitrust Division.  Trial Attorneys Alexander Berlin and Thomas B.W. Hall, Law Clerk Andrew Tyler, and Paralegal Specialist Kevin Sitarski of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, along with Assistant Chief Elizabeth Prewitt and Trial Attorney Richard Powers of the Antitrust Division, and former Trial Attorney Luke Marsh have also provided valuable assistance.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs has provided assistance in this matter as well.

The broader investigation relating to LIBOR and other benchmark rates has required, and has greatly benefited from, a diligent and wide-ranging cooperative effort among various enforcement agencies both in the United States and abroad.  The Justice Department acknowledges and expresses its deep appreciation for this assistance.  In particular, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement referred this matter to the Department and, along with the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, has played a major role in the investigation.  The Securities and Exchange Commission has also provided valuable assistance for which the Department is grateful.  The Department also expresses its appreciation to the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office for its assistance and ongoing cooperation.  Various agencies and enforcement authorities from other nations are also participating in different aspects of the broader investigation, and the Department is grateful for their cooperation and assistance as well.

Finally, the Department acknowledges ICAP’s continuing cooperation in the Department’s ongoing investigation.

This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.  The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

Panasonic Executive Indicted for Role in Fixing Prices on Automobile Parts Sold to Toyota to Be Installed in U.S. Cars

A Detroit federal grand jury returned an indictment against a Panasonic Automotive Systems Corporation executive for his role in an international conspiracy to fix prices of switches and steering angle sensors sold to Toyota and installed in U.S. cars, the Department of Justice announced today.

The indictment, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in Detroit, charges that Shinichi Kotani, a Japanese national, participated in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of, switches and steering angle sensors sold to Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States and elsewhere.   Kotani is the Director of Global Automotive Marketing and Sales at Panasonic.

Panasonic is an Osaka, Japan-based manufacturer of automotive parts, including steering wheel switches, turn switches, wiper switches, combination switches, and steering angle sensors  .  Panasonic pleaded guilty in August 2013, to its role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $45.8 million criminal fine.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that from at least as early as January 2004 until at least February 2010, Kotani and his co-conspirators attended meetings to reach collusive agreements to rig bids, allocate the supply and fix the prices of switches and steering angle sensors sold to Toyota.  The indictment alleges that Kotani and his co-conspirators had further communications to monitor and enforce the collusive agreement.

“The Antitrust Division remains vigilant in its ongoing efforts to hold executives accountable when they engage in anticompetitive conduct that harms American consumers,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “As a result of the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into bid rigging and price fixing in the auto parts industry, 19 executives have been charged.”

“I am proud of the hard work done by the FBI agents and the Department of Justice attorneys who worked on this case,” said John Robert Shoup, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.  “The global resources of the FBI are always ready to respond when these complex financial conspiracies threaten our national economy.”

Kotani 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.
Including Kotani, 11 companies and 19 executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the automotive parts industry.  To date, more than $874 million in criminal fines have been imposed and 14 individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each.  One other executive has agreed to serve time in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25, 2013.

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 National Criminal Enforcement Section and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.

Two Fujikura Ltd. Executives Indicted for Roles in Fixing Prices on Automobile Parts Sold to Subaru to Be Installed in U.S. Cars

A federal grand jury in Detroit returned an indictment against two Fujikura Ltd. executives for their roles in an international conspiracy to fix prices of auto parts used in automotive wire harnesses sold to Subaru and installed in U.S. cars, the Department of Justice announced today.

The indictment, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in Detroit, charges Ryoji Fukudome and Toshihiko Nagashima, both Japanese nationals, with participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of automotive wire harnesses sold to Fuji Heavy Industries–an automaker more commonly known by its brand name, Subaru–for installation in automobiles sold in the United States and elsewhere.

Fukudome was employed by Fujikura as general manager of the Automotive Global Marketing Department from April 2001 to April 2006 and Nagashima was employed by Fujikura as manager of the Fujikura Wire Harness Center in Ohta, Japan, from July 1994 to April 2006, and as general manager of the Automotive Global Marketing Department from April 2006 to April 2009.

Fujikura is a Toyko-based manufacturer of automotive wire harnesses.  Automotive wire harnesses are automotive electrical distribution systems used to direct and control electronic components, wiring and circuit boards.  Fujikura pleaded guilty to its role in the conspiracy in June 2012, and was sentenced to pay a $20 million criminal fine.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that from at least as early as September 2005 until at least February 2010, Fukudome, Nagashima and their co-conspirators attended meetings in Japan to reach collusive agreements to rig bids and allocate the supply of automotive wire harnesses sold to Subaru.  The indictment alleges that Fukudome, Nagashima and their co-conspirators had further communications to monitor and enforce the collusive agreements.

“International cartels targeting U.S. businesses and consumers pose a serious threat to our competitive market place,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The Antitrust Division is working closely with competition enforcers abroad to ensure that there are no safe harbors for executives who engage in international cartel crimes.”   “Those who engage in price fixing, bid rigging and other fraudulent schemes harm the automotive industry by driving up costs for vehicle makers and buyers,” said John Robert Shoup, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.  “The FBI is committed to pursuing and prosecuting these individuals for their crimes.”

Fukudome and Nagashima are 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.

Including Fukudome and Nagashima, 11 companies and 18 executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the automotive parts industry.  To date, more than $874 million in criminal fines have been imposed and 14 individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve prison sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each.  One other executive has agreed to serve time in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25, 2013.

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 National Criminal Enforcement Section and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.

G.S. ELECTECH INC. EXECUTIVE INDICTED FOR ROLE IN BID RIGGING AND PRICE FIXING ON AUTOMOBILE PARTS INSTALLED IN U.S. CARS

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in Covington, Ky., has returned an indictment against G.S. Electech Inc. executive, Shingo Okuda for his role in an international conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids of auto parts used on antilock brake systems installed in U.S. cars, the Department of Justice announced today. Today’s charge is the first to be filed in Kentucky in the department’s ongoing investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry.

The indictment, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, charges Okuda, a Japanese national, with engaging in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of speed sensor wire assemblies, which are installed in automobiles with an antilock brake system (ABS), sold to Toyota Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc. (collectively Toyota) in the United States and elsewhere.

G.S. Electech Inc. manufactures, assembles and sells a variety of automotive electrical parts, including speed sensor wire assemblies. The speed sensor wire assemblies connect a sensor on each wheel to the ABS to instruct it when to engage.

According to the charge, Okuda and his co–conspirators carried out the conspiracy by, among other things, agreeing during meetings and discussions to coordinate bids and fix prices of automotive parts submitted to Toyota. According to the charge, Okuda’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from at least as early as January 2003 until at least February 2010.

“Today’s indictment marks the 16th executive to be charged in the Antitrust Division’s continuing investigation of price fixing in the auto parts industry,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “Holding individuals accountable for their actions is the surest way to deter executives from choosing to collude rather than to compete for business.”

“Those who engage in price fixing, bid rigging and other fraudulent schemes harm the automotive industry by driving up costs for vehicle makers and buyers,” said John Robert Shoup, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.  “The FBI is committed to pursuing and prosecuting these individuals for their crimes.”

Okuda is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence for individuals of 10 years in prison and a criminal 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 Okuda, 11 companies and 16 executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the automotive parts industry. To date, more than $874 million in criminal fines have been imposed and 14 individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each. One other executive has agreed to serve time in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25, 2013.

In May 2012, G.S. Electech Inc. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $2.75 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy related to speed sensor wire assemblies.

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 each of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI. Today’s charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement 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 1-888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323.

Three Former UBS Executives Sentenced to Serve Time in Prison for Frauds Involving Contracts Related to the Investment of Municipal Bond Proceeds

Three former financial services executives were sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for their participation in frauds related to bidding for contracts for the investment of municipal bond proceeds and other municipal finance contracts, the Department of Justice announced.

  Peter Ghavami, Gary Heinz and Michael Welty, all former UBS AG executives, were convicted on Aug. 31, 2012, after a five-week trial for their roles in the frauds.  They were sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood.  Ghavami was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison and to pay a $1 million criminal fine;  Heinz was sentenced to serve 27 months in prison and to pay a $400,000 criminal fine; and  Welty was sentenced to serve 16 months in prison and to pay a $300,000 criminal fine.

“For years, these executives corrupted the competitive bidding process and defrauded municipalities across the country for important public works projects,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “The division will continue to prosecute those who subvert and corrupt competitive markets for personal profit.”

According to evidence presented at trial, while employed at UBS, Ghavami, Heinz and Welty participated in multiple fraud conspiracies and schemes with various financial institutions and with a broker, at various time periods from as early as March 2001 until at least November 2006.  These financial institutions, or providers, offered a type of contract – known as an investment agreement – to state, county and local governments and agencies, and not-for-profit entities, throughout the United States. The public entities were seeking to invest money from a variety of sources, primarily the proceeds of municipal bonds that they had issued to raise money for, among other things, public projects. Public entities typically hire a broker to assist them in investing their money and to conduct a competitive bidding process to determine the winning provider.

At trial, the Department of Justice showed that while acting as providers, Ghavami, Heinz and Welty conspired with other providers and with a broker to corrupt the bidding process for more than a dozen investment agreements in order to increase the number and profitability of the agreements awarded to UBS.  At other times, while acting as brokers, Ghavami, Heinz, Welty and their co-conspirators arranged for UBS to receive kickbacks in exchange for manipulating the bidding process and steering investment agreements to certain providers. Ghavami, Heinz and Welty deprived the municipalities of competitive interest rates for the investment of tax-exempt bond proceeds that were to be used by municipalities to refinance outstanding debt and for various public works projects, such as for building or repairing schools, hospitals and roads. Evidence at trial established that they cost municipalities around the country and the U.S. Treasury millions of dollars.

During the trial, the government presented specific evidence relating to 26 corrupted bids, including 76 recorded conversations made by the co-conspirator financial institutions. Among the issuers and not-for-profit entities whose agreements or contracts were subject to the defendants’ schemes were the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation, the Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation of Rhode Island, the Hospital Authority of Forsyth County, Ga., and the RWJ Health Care Corp. at Hamilton in New Jersey.

“The charges against these individuals outline a deceptive scheme to subvert competition in the marketplace. Those who engage in this type of criminal activity not only stand to defraud public entities, but erode the public’s trust in the competitive bidding process,” said George Venizelos, Acting Director in Charge of the FBI in New York.  “The sentences announced today remind the public that the FBI will continue to work with the Antitrust Division to ensure the integrity of competitive bidding in public finance.”

“Those who manipulate the competitive bidding system to benefit themselves will be held accountable for their criminal activity,” said Richard Weber, Chief, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). “The defendants conspired with others to corrupt the bidding process for more than a dozen investment agreements in order to increase the profitability of the agreements awarded to UBS. Quite simply, they enriched themselves at the expense of the towns and cities that needed the money for important public works projects such as building and repairing schools, hospitals and roads. IRS-CI is committed to using our financial expertise to uncover this kind of corruption.”

Ghavami was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of substantive wire fraud. Heinz was found guilty on three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of substantive wire fraud. Welty was found guilty on three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

A total of 20 individuals have been charged as a result of the department’s ongoing municipal bonds investigation, and 19 have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Another individual awaits trial. Additionally, one company, Rubin/Chambers, Dunhill Insurance Services Inc. has pleaded guilty.

The sentences announced today resulted from an ongoing investigation conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York and Chicago Offices, the FBI and the IRS-CI. The division is coordinating its investigation with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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.

PANASONIC AND ITS SUBSIDIARY SANYO AGREE TO PLEAD GUILTY IN SEPARATE PRICE-FIXING CONSPIRACIES INVOLVING AUTOMOTIVE PARTS AND BATTERY CELLS

WASHINGTON — Panasonic Corp. and its subsidiary, SANYO Electric Co. Ltd.,  have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a total of $56.5 million in criminal  fines for their roles in separate price-fixing conspiracies involving automotive parts and battery cells, the Department of Justice announced  today.  LG Chem Ltd., a leading  manufacturer of secondary batteries, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a  $1.056 million criminal fine for price fixing involving battery cells.

Osaka, Japan-based Panasonic agreed to pay a $45.8 million criminal  fine for its role in the automotive parts conspiracy. SANYO agreed to pay a  $10.731 million criminal fine for its role in the battery cells conspiracy.  The guilty pleas against SANYO and LG Chem  are the first in the department’s ongoing investigation into anticompetitive  conduct in the cylindrical lithium ion battery cell industry.

The three-count felony charge against Panasonic was filed in U.S.  District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Separate one-count felony charges were filed  against SANYO and LG Chem in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of  California.  As part of the plea  agreements, which are subject to court approval, the charged companies have  agreed to cooperate in the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations.

Panasonic has agreed to plead  guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of switches, steering angle sensors and automotive high intensity discharge (HID) ballasts installed in  cars sold in the United States and elsewhere.   SANYO and LG Chem Ltd. have agreed to plead guilty for their roles in a  conspiracy to fix the prices of cylindrical lithium ion battery cells sold  worldwide for use in notebook computer battery packs.

“Panasonic is charged with participating in separate price-fixing  conspiracies affecting numerous parts used in cars made and sold in the United  States while its subsidiary was also fixing prices on battery cells used by  consumers of notebook computers,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant  Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “Pleading guilty and cooperating with the  division’s ongoing investigations is a necessary step in changing a corporate culture that turned customers into price-fixing victims.”

According  to the first count of a three-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District  Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, 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 Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor  Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. in the United States and  elsewhere. According to the court document, Panasonic and its co-conspirators  carried out the conspiracy from at least as early as September 2003 until at  least February 2010.

The  second count charges that Panasonic, during this same time period, participated  in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize,  and maintain the prices of steering angle sensors sold to Toyota in the United  States and elsewhere. The department said that Panasonic and its  co-conspirators agreed, during meetings and conversations, to suppress and  eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for, and to fix,  stabilize, and maintain the prices of steering angle sensors sold to Toyota  Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc.  in the United States and elsewhere.

According  to the third count of the charge, from at least as early as July 1998 and  continuing until at least February 2010, 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 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. Additionally, 12 of the individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each. The three additional executives have agreed to serve time in prison and are currently awaiting sentencing.

“The FBI remains committed to protecting American consumers and  businesses from corporate corruption. The conduct of Panasonic, SANYO, and LG Chem  resulted in inflated production costs for notebook computers and cars purchased  by U.S. consumers,” said Joseph S. Campbell, FBI Criminal Investigative Division Deputy Assistant Director.  “These investigations illustrate our efforts to ensure market fairness for U.S. businesses by bringing corporations to justice when their commercial activity violates antitrust laws.”

According to the one-count felony charge  filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California  in San Francisco, SANYO and LG Chem engaged in a conspiracy to fix the price of the cylindrical lithium ion battery cells used in notebook computer battery packs from about April 2007 until about September 2008. Cylindrical  lithium ion battery cells are rechargeable batteries that are often incorporated in groups into more powerful battery packs commonly used to power electronic devices.

According to the charges, SANYO, LG Chem and  their co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by, among other things, agreeing during meetings and conversations to price cylindrical lithium ion  battery cells for use in notebook computer battery packs to customers at  predetermined levels and issuing price quotations to customers in accordance  with those agreements. The department also said that SANYO, LG Chem and their  co-conspirators collected and exchanged information for the purpose of  monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices and took steps to  conceal the conspiracy.

Panasonic, SANYO and LG Chem are each charged with price fixing in  violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations. The maximum fine for the company may be  increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered  by the victims, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory  maximum fine.

Today’s charges arose from an ongoing  investigation in the cylindrical lithium ion battery cells industry being  conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI in San  Francisco as well as 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 automotive parts charges  were brought by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement 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 1-888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323. Anyone  with information concerning illegal or anticompetitive conduct in the battery industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at  415-436-6660 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.

Diamond Electric Mfg. Co. Ltd. and an Autoliv Inc. Executive Agree to Plead Guilty to Price Fixing on Automobile Parts Installed in U.S. Cars;

Osaka, Japan-based Diamond Electric Mfg. Co. Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $19 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of ignition coils installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today. This is the first case in the department’s antitrust investigation involving parts sold directly to an automobile company headquartered in the United States – Ford Motor Co. The department also announced that an Autoliv Inc. executive has agreed to plead guilty for his role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of certain seatbelts sold to Toyota Motor Corp. for installation in cars manufactured and sold in the United States and elsewhere.

Diamond Electric has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation. Takayoshi Matsunaga, a current employee of Autoliv and former vice president of the Toyota Global Business Unit at Autoliv Japan, agreed to serve one year and one day in a U.S. prison, to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation. The plea agreements for both Diamond Electric and Matsunaga are subject to court approval.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Diamond Electric engaged in a conspiracy, by agreeing during meetings and conversations, to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of ignition coils it sold to Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and certain of their subsidiaries, in the United States and elsewhere, on a model-by-model basis. According to the charge, Diamond Electric and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from at least as early as July 2003 until at least February 2010.

“Today’s prosecutions brings the total to 10 companies and 15 executives held accountable for fixing prices on parts used to manufacture cars in the United States,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The Antitrust Division and its law enforcement partners will protect American businesses and consumers from harmful price-fixing cartels and bring those responsible to justice.”

Diamond Electric manufactures and sells ignition coils.  Ignition coils are part of the fuel ignition system. They are responsible for quickly releasing electricity to the spark plugs for ignition.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Matsunaga, a Japanese national, engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of certain seatbelts sold to Toyota in the United States and elsewhere. According to the charge, Matsunaga’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from on or about May 2008 until at least February 2011.

“Those who engage in price fixing, bid rigging and other fraudulent schemes harm the automotive industry by driving up costs for vehicle makers and buyers,” said Robert D. Foley III, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.  “The FBI is committed to pursuing and prosecuting these individuals for their crimes.”

According to the charge, Matsunaga and his co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by, among other things, agreeing during meetings and discussions to coordinate bids submitted to Toyota. Matsunaga is the 15th individual to agree to plead guilty in the department’s ongoing antitrust investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry.

Stockholm-based Autoliv Inc. is a manufacturer of automotive occupant safety systems, including certain seatbelts.  In June 2012, Autoliv agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $14.5 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of certain seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels installed in U.S. cars.

Including Diamond Electric and Matsunaga, 10 companies and 15 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the division’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry and have agreed to pay a total of $828 million in criminal fines. DENSO, Nippon Seiki Ltd., Tokai Rika Co. Ltd., Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd, Yazaki Corp., G.S. Electech Inc., Fujikura Ltd., Autoliv Inc. and TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH have already pleaded guilty.  Additionally, 12 individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each. Two additional executives have agreed to serve time in prison and are currently awaiting sentencing.

Diamond Electric and Matsunaga are charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries maximum penalties of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations and 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.

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 National Criminal Enforcement Section and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.

TWO DENSO CORPORATION EXECUTIVES AGREE TO PLEAD GUILTY FOR PRICE FIXING AND BID RIGGING ON AUTO PARTS INSTALLED IN U.S. CARS

WASHINGTON — Two DENSO Corp. executives – Yuji Suzuki and Hiroshi Watanabe – have agreed to plead guilty for their roles in international conspiracies to fix prices and rig bids of certain automotive components installed in U.S. cars, the Department of Justice announced today. The executives, both Japanese nationals, have also agreed to serve time in a U.S. prison.

Yuji Suzuki, a senior manager in DENSO’s Toyota Sales Division, has agreed to serve 16 months in a U.S. prison, to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation. Hiroshi Watanabe, a group leader in DENSO’s Toyota Sales Division at the time of the offense, has agreed to serve 15 months in a U.S. prison, to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.

“The conspirators reached agreements to fix prices and allocate bids, and took measures such as using code names and meeting in secret to cover their tracks,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “Cracking down on international price-fixing cartels that target U.S. businesses and consumers has been, and will continue to be, among the top priorities for the Antitrust Division.”

According to the two-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Suzuki, along with co-conspirators, engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of, electronic control units and heater control panels sold to Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc. in the United States and elsewhere. According to the charges, Suzuki participated in the electronic control units conspiracy from at least as early as August 2005 until at least December 2008 and participated in the heater control panels conspiracy from at least as early as July 2005 until at least December 2008.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Watanabe participated in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of, heater control panels sold to Toyota from at least as early as June 2008 and continuing until at least February 2010 in the United States and elsewhere.

In March 2012, DENSO pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $78 million criminal fine for its role in the conspiracies related to electronic control units and heater control panels.

Electronic control units are electrical components, similar to tiny computers, which are embedded throughout cars and control various electrical systems or subsystems in an automobile. For example, a body electronic control unit controls the power windows, power locks and other electronic components on the door. Heater control panels are located in the center console of a car and control the temperature inside the car.

“Those individuals who engage in price fixing and bid rigging negatively impact the automotive industry by causing vehicle buyers and makers to pay higher prices. The FBI is committed to pursuing and prosecuting these criminals,” said Robert D. Foley III, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division.

According to the charges against Suzuki and Watanabe, they carried out the conspiracies by participating, or directing the participation of subordinate employees, in meetings and conversations to coordinate and fix prices of automotive parts installed in U.S. cars and elsewhere.

To date, nine companies and 14 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the automotive parts industry. DENSO, Nippon Seiki Ltd., Tokai Rika Co. Ltd., Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd, Yazaki Corp., G.S. Electech Inc., Fujikura Ltd., Autoliv Inc. and TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay a total of more than $809 million in criminal fines. Additionally, 12 individuals have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each.

Suzuki and Watanabe are 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.

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 National Criminal Enforcement Section and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.