Japanese auto supplier Maruyasu Industries pleads guilty to U.S. antitrust violations

WASHINGTON — A Japanese automotive supplier pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to price fixing, bid rigging and customer allocation of steel tubes used in vehicles sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice said late Thursday.

Maruyasu Industries Co. agreed to pay a $12 million fine for its role in the conspiracy.

The company’s steel tubes are used in fuel distribution, braking and other chassis and engine systems for light vehicles.

According to the plea agreement in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Maruyasu participated in anticompetitive practices for steel tubes sold to automakers in Japan and installed in vehicles sold in the United States, a violation of the Sherman Act.

The indictment also charges Maruyasu’s U.S. subsidiary, Curtis-Maruyasu Inc., and four sales executives. Those charges were dismissed in exchange for their cooperation in any future prosecutions related to the conspiracy, the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department has been prosecuting auto suppliers, most of them Japanese, for antitrust crimes for about eight years. Before Thursday’s announcement, the investigation had yielded $2.9 billion in criminal fines and another $1.34 billion in civil settlements. Including Maruyasu, 50 companies have been charged along with 66 executives. The government said 32 individual plea agreements have been reached and 34 executives remain under indictment.

Larry Vellequette contributed to this report.