April 16, 2014 / 7:34 PM / 5 years ago

Former Bridgestone exec to plead guilty to price fixing: U.S. Justice Dept

Pedestrians are reflected in a signboard of Bridgestone Corp. at its headquarters in Tokyo February 19, 2009. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former sales manager for Bridgestone Corp (5108.T) has agreed to plead guilty and serve 18 months in prison for participating in a conspiracy to fix the prices of rubber anti-vibration devices used in automotive suspension systems and engine mounts, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

In a separate action involving Bridgestone on Tuesday, one executive and two other former executives were indicted for conspiracy. Bridgestone itself agreed in February to plead guilty to price-fixing and agreed to pay a $425 million criminal fine.

Law enforcement authorities in the United States and elsewhere have brought price-fixing cases related to more than 30 auto parts, including seat belts, radiators, windshield wipers, air-conditioning systems, power window motors and power steering components.

The Justice Department said Yusuke Shimasaki, a former Bridgestone sales manager, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of fixing the prices of products sold to Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd (7270.T), which makes Subaru cars.

“The charge today once again demonstrates the (Justice Department) Antitrust Division’s vigorous commitment to hold individuals accountable for engaging in anti-competitive conduct,” said Brent Snyder, the deputy assistant attorney general for criminal enforcement.

Julia Sutherland, a spokeswoman for Tokyo-based Bridgestone confirmed Shimasaki had once worked for the company but had no further comment.

The case involves anti-vibration parts used in automotive suspension systems and engine mounts.

Including Bridgestone, 26 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the Justice Department’s long-running investigation of price-fixing in the auto parts industry. Thirty-three people have been charged.

The case is at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, and is the United States of America v. Yusuke Shimasaki. It is case No. 14-139.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Trott

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