US: auto parts price fixing probe turns into record investigation image

The Justice Department has been for some time investigating price-fixing and bid-rigging among the automotive parts suppliers, with the probe quickly becoming the largest ever criminal antitrust probe.

The investigation, which was first revealed to the public no less than four years ago – is not even over yet – but has already led the FBI to accuse of criminal acts dozens of people and companies, not only from the US – sending a signal across the entire industry.

“It’s a very, very safe assumption that U.S. consumers paid more, and sometimes significantly more, for their automobiles as a result of this conspiracy,” said Brent Snyder, a deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division.

“The firms will just make more money if they’re able to reach and stick to an agreement to collectively charge higher prices so that customers can’t get them to bid against each other,” said Spencer Weber Waller, from the Loyola University Chicago law school.

Until now, charges were brought up against 34 individuals and no less than 27 companies were found or agreed to plead guilty, according to the Justice Department. Nevertheless, new cases are still coming up, with the latest last week, when a Japanese executive was charged of conspiring to raise prices for auto parts sold to Toyota and for convincing employees to destroy evidence.