TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. said its German subsidiary has agreed to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Detroit to price fixing charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and pay a $5.1 million fine.
TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH of Koblenz, Germany has agreed to plead guilty for its involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels sold to two German automobile manufacturers, and installed in cars sold in the United States, according to the Justice Dept.
“By agreeing to fix the prices of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels, the conspirators eliminated competition for occupant safety parts in cars sold to U.S. consumers,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.
TRW officials said a related European Commission investigation into alleged competition law violations is ongoing. “It would be premature to speculate on the outcome,” TRW chairman and chief executive officer John Plant said in a statement.
“The actions connected with the DOJ settlement announced today conflict with what TRW stands for and are not consistent with our policies,” Plant said.
“The Company’s policy is to comply with all laws and regulations, including all antitrust and competition laws. Once we learned of the investigation, we moved very quickly to cooperate with the DOJ and bring this matter to a resolution. In addition, we have put in place enhanced training and communications to ensure that everyone in the organization is clear that we do not tolerate such conduct,” he said.
According to a one-count felony charge filed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, TRW Deutschland engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels sold to automakers in the United States and elsewhere.
According to court documents, the defendant’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from January 2008 until at least June 2011.
The department said that the TRW Automotive subsidiary and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing, during meetings and conversations, to allocate the supply of components and sell the occupant safety parts at noncompetitive prices to automakers in the United States and elsewhere. With 2011 sales of $16.2 billion, TRW Automotive ranks among the world’s leading automotive suppliers.
So far, seven companies and 10 individuals have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd, DENSO Corp., Yazaki Corp., G.S. Electech Inc., Fujikura Ltd. and Autoliv Inc. pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay a total of more than $785 million in criminal fines.
The ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office with the assistance of the FBI’ International Corruption Unit.