Japanese auto parts supplier NGK Insulators has agreed to plead guilty to a price-fixing conspiracy and pay a $65.3 million criminal fine, US authorities said Thursday.
The Justice Department said that NGK Insulators also will plead guilty to obstruction of justice for impeding its investigation, but the company has now agreed to cooperate in the probe.
The Nagoya-based NGK Insulators "conspired to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of catalytic converter substrates," which are ceramic components of the emissions control devices, the department said.
From July 2000 until at least February 2010, NGK Insulators manufactured and sold the ceramic substrates to General Motors, Toyota and Nissan for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold in the US and elsewhere.
During that period, NGK Insulators and its co-conspirators acted to suppress and eliminate competition in the auto-parts industry, the department said.
"Companies and their executives who commit antitrust crimes will be found out and punished," said Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general of the department's antitrust division.
"And if they attempt to obstruct our investigation they will face even harsher consequences."
The company's plea agreement is subject to court approval.
The two felony charges against NGK Insulators are the latest in the Justice Department's long-running probe into illegal practices in the automotive parts industry.
Including NGK Insulators, over the past several years 36 companies, mostly Japanese, and 30 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines.