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U.S. takes action in two auto parts price-fixing cases

A logo of Takata Corp is seen through a car window outside the company's headquarter building in Tokyo April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino
A logo of Takata Corp is seen through a car window outside the company's headquarter building in Tokyo April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three executives of Japan's Takata Corp <7312.T> will plead guilty to conspiring to fix the price of seatbelts sold to automakers in the United States and will go to jail for 14 to 19 months, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

Takata settled with the Justice Department in October, agreeing to pay $71.3 million to settle antitrust charges.

Separately, the government indicted two executives from another Japanese company on charges that they conspired to fix the prices of rubber parts sold to Toyota.

The three Takata executives in the seatbelt case worked with car makers such as Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and Subaru, which is owned by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd <7270.T>, Honda Motor Co Ltd <7267.T>, Mazda Motor Corp <7261.T> and Nissan Motor Co Ltd <7201.T>, all of which purchased Takata seat belts.

One of the three executives, Yasuhiko Ueno, had worked for a Takata subsidiary in the United States, TK Holdings Inc, and will serve 19 months in prison, the department said.

The other two, Saboro Imamiya and Yoshinobu Fujino, currently work for Takata in Japan. Imamiya will serve 16 months in prison while Fujino will serve 19 months, the department said.

In the second case, the Justice Department indicted Japanese nationals Masao Hayashi and Kenya Nonoyama on price-fixing charges involving anti-vibration rubber parts like engine mounts.

The department declined to name the company that Hayashi and Nonoyama worked for, saying only that they were employed by an Osaka-based company with subsidiaries in Franklin, Kentucky and White, Georgia.

Toyo Tire & Rubber Co Ltd <5105.T> is based in Osaka and lists operations in both U.S. cities on its website. Masao Hayashi is named as president of Toyo Automotive Parts (USA) in a 2010 news release. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Justice Department and antitrust enforcers worldwide have been probing price fixing of more than 30 car parts, including seatbelts, radiators, windshield wipers, air-conditioning systems, power window motors and power steering components.

Other companies which have purchased parts subject to price fixing have been Fiat SpA affiliate Chrysler Group LLC , Ford Motor Co , General Motors Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T>.

In some cases, the price-fixing lasted for a decade or longer. Parts company executives typically met face to face or talked by phone to reach collusive agreements, the Justice Department has said.

Among the auto parts companies that the Antitrust Division has settled with are Autoliv Inc , Tokai Rika Co Ltd <6995.T>, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH , Nippon Seiki Co Ltd <7287.T>, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd <5801.T> and Fujikura Ltd <5803.T>.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by John Wallace and Krista Hughes)

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