DETROIT, MI – A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan returned an indictment against Nobuhiko Niwa, a former automotive parts executive, for his alleged participation in a conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids and allocate the market for ceramic substrates sold in the United States and elsewhere, and used in catalytic converters supplied to automobile manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere, announced the Justice Department today.
The one-count indictment, filed today in Detroit, charges Niwa, a Japanese national, with conspiring to fix prices, rig bids and allocate the market for ceramic substrates used in automotive emissions control systems to reduce pollution. Automotive emissions control systems containing affected substrates were supplied to automobile manufacturers including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Honda, and certain of their subsidiaries, affiliates and suppliers in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“Those who corrupt the competitive process must be held accountable,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Today’s indictment reaffirms our commitment to vigorously prosecute corporate executives who scheme to harm their customers, such as those in the U.S. auto industry.”
“Mr. Niwa’s role in rigging bids and fixing prices to increase revenues subverted the free market structure of our economy,” said Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Division. “The scheme came at a cost to auto manufacturers, suppliers, and ultimately, consumers. Criminal acts that negatively impact consumers and damage our economy will be actively investigated and prosecuted.”
Niwa is charged with participating in the conspiracy from July 1999 to July 2011, when he served as Director and Senior Director of the mobile emissions division of a Japanese subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company based in Corning, New York. The U.S. company manufactures substrates in the United States and sells those products in the United States and elsewhere. Its Japanese subsidiary, which employed Niwa, markets and manages sales of substrates manufactured in the United States. Some of the affected substrates were installed in catalytic converters for vehicles sold to U.S. consumers.
Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI. Including Niwa, a total of 59 individuals and 39 companies have been charged and have agreed to pay more than $2.6 billion in criminal fines.
This indictment was brought by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s Detroit Division with the assistance of the FBI’s International Corruption Unit. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323.