Showa Corp., a Honda parts supplier with a central Ohio plant, has agreed to plead guilty to price fixing and pay a $19.9 million fine, the government said this morning.
The company helped to organize a conspiracy to suppress competition and fix prices for power-steering assemblies sold to Honda, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati.
Showa is based in Japan. It serves Honda’s Ohio operations with a plant in Sunbury.
The plea agreement is the latest development in a larger investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice of price-fixing among auto-parts suppliers that serve several automakers. It has already led to prosecutions at other Honda suppliers with operations in Ohio.
“Today’s guilty plea marks the 27th time a company has been held accountable for fixing prices on parts used to manufacture cars in the United States,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s antitrust division, in a statement. “The Antitrust Division and its law enforcement partners remain committed to prosecuting illegal cartels that harm U.S. consumers and businesses.”
Showa officials worked with other companies to agree on the prices they would bid to automakers, and then monitored to make sure the participants were following through with the plans, the complaint said.
The company was part of the conspiracy from as early as 2007 until as recently as September 2012.
America Showa, the U.S. subsidiary of Showa Corp., has a factory in Sunbury with more than 500 employees, which makes it one of the 10 largest employers in Delaware County, according to the county auditor’s office. The company also has a factory in Blanchester in the Cincinnati area.
The company had this statement:
“American Showa Inc. values its customers, associates and the communities it serves, and is fully committed to ethical business practices and to exceeding its customers’ expectations. American Showa Inc.’s daily operations will continue as usual and all fines are the responsibility of Showa Corp.”
The victims in these cases are the automakers and their customers, who may have paid higher prices because of the price-fixing.
Honda spokesman Ron Lietzke had no comment about the specifics of the Showa charges.
“During this entire investigation, Honda has cooperated with authorities,” he said.
The plea agreement needs to be approved by the court.
By Dan Gearino - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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