Washington – A former high-ranking executive with Japanese supplier Nishikawa Rubber Co. has pleaded guilty and will serve 18 months in a US prison for his role in fixing the prices of automotive body sealing products, the US Department of Justice said 20 April.
Keiji Kyomoto was indicted in October with two other executives at the Hiroshima, Japan-based supplier, accused of rigging bids for weatherstripping and rubber seals sold to Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.
Kyomoto’s plea in US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky today makes him the highest-ranking auto supplier executive snared in the government’s ongoing investigation into widespread price fixing in the automotive supplier industry. In addition to the prison term, Kyomoto agreed to pay a $20,000 (€17,700) fine as part of his guilty plea to the single charge of price fixing, the Justice Department said in a release.
Nishikawa was not named in the October indictment or the plea agreement in the Justice Department press release. When Kyomoto was indicted in October, however, he was listed on Nishikawa’s website as a director on the company’s board. He also was listed as president of a Delaware-based joint venture with the Japanese company, which manufactured and sold sealing products with offices in Novi, Michigan, and Topeka, Ind.
The indictment is the latest development in an ongoing industry-wide federal investigation into price fixing and bid rigging. The investigation, led by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the FBI, has led to charges against 58 people and 38 companies and about $2.6 billion in fines, the government said in its 20 April statement. Similar investigations have been ongoing in Europe and Asia.
Roughly half of the executives charged in the scandal have remained abroad – mostly in Japan – as fugitives to avoid US prosecution. The US Justice Department has threatened to extradite those executives, but no known extraditions have been attempted so far.