In 2011, the first charges were filed against vehicle parts suppliers in a price-fixing scheme affecting $5 billion in parts sold to U.S. vehicle makers. In September 2013, nine Japan-based firms and two executives agreed to plead guilty and pay fines. In all, some 23 U.S. companies and 26 executives were caught up in the price-fixing scheme and have agreed to pay more than $1.8 billion in criminal fines.
According to documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, these price-fixing schemes were hatched in meetings held in "remote locations" and phone communications in which code names were used to conceal the identities of those involved. It's no wonder that, according to an editorial in this week's IHS SupplierBusiness, "Anti-trust regulators across the key vehicle markets are becoming more watchful and are broadening their investigations related to component pricing."
It's become such a big problem that regulators in the "Korea Free Trade Commission (KFTC) fined units of Denso, Continental and Bosch a total of KRW114.6 billion (USD 107.8 million) for their involvement in fixing prices of components sold to Hyundai and its affiliate Kia." The European Commission has also uncovered price-fixing in components such as bearings after intensifying its efforts "in the light of similar investigations and disclosures made in Japan and North America," said the SupplierBusiness editorial. In 2013, the EC "imposed a combined fine of EUR 141.8 million (USD 181.7 million) on four wiring harness suppliers" with a fifth supplier, Sumitmo Electric escaping the fine "for blowing the whistle on the cartel."