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Toyo Tire fined $120 million for price-fixing: U.S. Justice Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Japan's Toyo Tire & Rubber Co Ltd has agreed to plead guilty to fixing some auto parts prices and pay a $120 million criminal fine, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

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

Toyo, which has subsidiaries in Kentucky and Georgia, has also agreed to cooperate with the investigation, the department said in a statement.

Toyo admitted to conspiring to fix the prices of anti-vibration rubber parts sold to Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Corp and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, which makes Subaru cars.

It also agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices of constant velocity joint boots sold to GKN Plc. The boots protect cars' joints from contaminants.

Thus far, 22 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in connection with the Justice Department's auto parts price-fixing probe. Twenty-six executives have been charged.

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 illegal pricing agreements, the Justice Department said recently.

Among the companies the Justice Department's Antitrust Division settled with previously were Autoliv Inc, Tokai Rika Co Ltd, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Co Ltd, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd and Fujikura Ltd.

Toyo Tire and Rubber could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by David Ingram and Diane Bartz; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace)

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