Nippon Seiki Co. Ltd. has agreed to pay $4.56 million to consumers and cooperate with attorneys who are suing many other firms, making it the first settlement in a massive antitrust case.
The Japanese auto supplier in 2012 pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $1 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of instrument panel clusters. The Justice Department said Nippon conspired to rig bids for and to maintain prices of instrument panel clusters sold in the United States from at least as early as April 2008 until at least February 2010.
“Given Nippon Seiki and its affiliates’ promise of cooperation, this is an ice-breaker settlement that significantly increases pressure on the remaining instrument panel cluster parts defendants,” said Hollis Salzman of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP, co-lead counsel for the consumers and co-chair of the firm’s Antitrust and Trade Regulation Practice
To date, 26 people have been charged in the department’s probe into price-fixing and bid-rigging in the auto parts industry. Additionally, 21 companies have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty and pay a combined $1.6 billion in criminal fines in what the antitrust division says is the Justice Department’s largest-ever antitrust investigation.
About 25 million cars sold in the U.S. since 2003 were affected; the government has said Detroit’s Big Three and major Japanese automakers are among the victims.
The class-action proceeding, which is pending in federal court in Detroit, raised price-fixing and bid-rigging claims surrounding auto parts firms sale of more than two dozen automotive parts for use in new automobiles.