Panasonic and Sanyo fined $56.6m (£37m) following price fixing guilty plea

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic and its subsidiary Sanyo have pleaded guilty to two separate counts of prices fixing, according to the US Department of Justice.

Panasonic has accepted a $45.8 million (£30 million) criminal fine as a result of the plea, whist Sanyo has been ordered to pay $10.7 million (£7 million).

Panasonic admitted to fixing the prices of car parts sold to Toyota, including steering wheel controls, wiper and indicator switches and steering angle sensors.

The fine handed to Panasonic is part of an ongoing investigation into the fixing of car part prices, which has so far led to guilty pleas from 11 companies who have agreed to pay a total of more than $874 million in fines as a result.

Additionally, 12 executives have been handed criminal fines and jail sentences ranging from a year to two years each. An additional three have agreed to serve time in prison and are currently awaiting sentencing. To which companies these executives belong has not been revealed.

According to the court document, the conspiracy began in at least September 2003 and was ongoing until February 2010. During this time, Panasonic and its co-conspirators worked to suppress and eliminate competition by agreeing to rig bids and fix, stabilize and maintain prices through a series of meetings.

Sanyo was charged with conspiring to fix the price of batteries used in laptops that were sold to US consumers. A third big name electronics firm, LG Chem, has been fined $1.056 million (£690,000) as part of the battery price fixing conspiracy.

"The FBI remains committed to protecting American consumers and businesses from corporate corruption. The conduct of Panasonic, SANYO, and LG Chem resulted in inflated production costs for notebook computers and cars purchased by U.S. consumers," said Joseph S. Campbell, FBI Criminal Investigative Division Deputy Assistant Director.

"These investigations illustrate our efforts to ensure market fairness for U.S. businesses by bringing corporations to justice when their commercial activity violates antitrust laws."

Image credit: Flickr (Yoshiki)

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