Nine Japan-based firms and two of its executives have agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices of 30 products sold to U.S. car manufacturers, the Justice Department announced on Thursday.
The companies and executives have also agreed to pay more than $740 million in criminal fines for their role in the scheme.
"These international price-fixing conspiracies affected more than $5 billion in automobile parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers," Attorney General Eric Holder said during a news conference. "In total, more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers were affected by the illegal conduct."
The bottom line, Holder said, is that Americans paid more for their cars than they should have because of the illegal activity.
The AP explains:
"The action is the latest development in the largest criminal investigation the Justice Department's criminal division has ever carried out. To date, it has resulted in charges against 20 companies and 21 executives, and the companies have agreed to pay $1.6 billion in criminal fines. ...
"Company executives used code names and met face to face in remote locations in the U.S. and Japan to rig bids, fix prices and allocate the supply of auto parts, the government alleged.
"Seventeen of the 21 executives charged so far have been sentenced to serve prison terms in the U.S. or have plea agreements calling for significant time behind bars."
The companies charged today are: Hitachi Automotive Systems; Mitsubishi Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries; Mitsuba; Jtekt; NSK; T.RAD; Valeo Japan and Yamashita Rubber.
Tetsuya Kunida, a Japanese citizen and Gary Walker, a U.S. citizen, were the men charged.