Unit of Corning Will Pay $66.5 Million for Auto Part Price Fixing

Posted by at 11:56 am on May 16, 2016

DOJ LogoA subsidiary of Corning Inc. agreed to pay $66.5 million in criminal fines and plead guilty to fixing the prices of materials used in vehicle catalytic converters, the U.S. Department of Justice said today.

The deal with Corning International Kabushiki Kaisha is the latest in a long list of settlements in a yearslong probe by the Justice Department and antitrust enforcers internationally in the auto parts industry.

The price fixing started in mid-1999 and ran until mid-2011, with the products sold to Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda Motor Co. and others, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Corning International K.K. is accused of conspiring to fix the price of ceramic substrates used in catalytic converters to reduce pollution. Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Nobuhiko Niwa, a former Corning International K.K. executive, on price-fixing charges.

Corning International K.K. and Niwa “spent more than a decade colluding on sales of an important component of emissions systems,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a statement. “But they have now been held accountable for the competitive harm they caused.”

Niwa was director of the mobile emissions division at Corning International K.K. when the alleged price fixing took place between 1999 and 2011. He left the company in 2012. Prosecutors say Niwa met with co-conspirators to allocate market share and customers in the U.S., negotiate prices and exchange capacity and sales information.

Corning International K.K. said in a statement that Niwa acted “completely alone” and that his actions impacted only Honda.

“This case is about the actions of one former employee of CIKK, who secretly disclosed CIKK’s and Corning’s confidential information to a competitor, where he previously had worked for many years,” Corning International K.K. President Yasuya Nakano said in a statement. Niwa previously worked for Japanese supplier NGK Insulators Ltd., according to a Corning spokesman.

Forty companies and 59 people have been charged in connection with the probe into auto parts price fixing, leading to $2.6 billion in criminal fines, the Justice Department said.

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