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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has fined 26 companies a total of US$2billion in a conspiracy to fix prices of anti-vibration rubber parts for the automotive industry.

Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corp. is the latest company to be hit with a $425 million penalty by the DoJ in an ongoing criminal investigation into violations of the anti-trust Sherman Act.

Bridgestone pleaded guilty to conspiring to fix prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts installed in cars sold in the U.S. between January 2001 and December 2008.

ANA CargoAccording to the one-count felony charge, the company conspired to allocate sales of, to rig bids for and to fix, raise and maintain the prices of anti-vibration rubber parts sold to Toyota, Nissan, Fuji Heavy Industries, Suzuki Motor and Isuzu Motors.

The DoJ says the penalty is so high because the company failed to disclose the conspiracy when it was fined US$28 million in October 2011 after pleading guilty to price-fixing and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations in the marine hose industry.

News of the fine coincides with a forecast indicating car sales in the U.S. will reach a seven-year high in 2014. According to Japan Customs, car part exports by air from Japan rose 20 percent in the last quarter of 2013 to US$215 million. At the same time, IATA says there was a 4.8 percent rise in trans-Pacific airfreight in November last year compared to the same month a year earlier.

With a drop in the value of the Yen against the Dollar coupled with a predicted 2.8 percent growth in the U.S. economy in 2014, car part exports from Japan will continue to rise according to analysts.

This is all good news for All Nippon Airways that reported a 21 percent rise in cargo traffic in the last quarter of 2013 from the same period in 2012.

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