A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted Panasonic Corp. executive Shinichi Kotani for his involvement in an international pricing-fixing conspiracy. Kotani is accused of taking part in price fixing of switches and steering angles sensors for Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles sold in the United States. The indictment alleges that Kotani and co-conspirators took part in big-rigging meetings in the US and Japan from January 2004 until February 2010.
Kotani was also vice president of automotive systems from April 2008 until July 2009 for Panasonic Automotive Systems Co. of America located in Peachtree, Ga. Panasonic also has an automotive technical center in suburban Detroit.
Once found guilty, Kotani could be subjected to a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison as well as $1 million in fines for violating the Sherman Act. The indictment is part of a wide ongoing investigation in US into supplier price fixing. It is also the second indictment in Detroit in the past week. Regulators in Europe and Japan have been conducting similar probe.
Fujikura Ltd. executives Ryoji Fukudome and Toshihiko Nagashima were indicted on Sept. 19, 2013, for allegedly fixing prices on wire harnesses sold to Fuji Heavy Industries.
The parts were allegedly used in Fuji's Subaru vehicle line sold in the US. Earlier this month, G.S. Electech Inc. executive Shingo Okuda was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Kentucky for bid-rigging on wire assemblies sold to Toyota. Panasonic pleaded guilty in July 2013 to its role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to a criminal fine of $45.8 million. The price-fixing probe has resulted to the indictment of 11 companies and 19 executives, including Kotani. Over $874 million in criminal fines have been imposed on the companies, and 14 executives have been sentenced to prison.