In a report updating the current status of a price-fixing and bid-rigging probe into the auto parts industry, the Associated Press has noted that the scope of charges only continues to expand. Last Thursday an executive from a Japanese company became the newest chapter in the investigation after he was charged with fixing the prices of heater control panels sold to Toyota. He also allegedly instructed his employees to destroy evidence in an attempt to conceal the scheme.
In the last four years, 34 individuals and 27 companies have pleaded guilty as part of the largest criminal antitrust investigation in the history of the Justice Department. Collectively, the individuals and companies have agreed to pay more than $2.3 billion in fines.
The inflated prices have impacted the end prices of at least 25 million Chrysler, GM, Ford and Toyota cars. An attorney in the DOJ’ antitrust division told the Associated press, “It’s a very, very safe assumption that U.S. consumers paid more, and sometimes significantly more, for their automobiles as a result of this conspiracy.”
The Justice Department continues to work with officials in Australia, Japan and other countries around the world to catch and prosecute the responsible parties. Despite the charges filed and fines paid since 2010, the Associated Press reports that the DOJ investigation remains ongoing. To date, the investigation has resulted in 27 guilty pleas and over $2.3 billion in fines.