Japanese bearings company NSK Ltd. will pay $34.5 million to settle charges by some automobile dealers and end buyers over auto parts price-fixing, in sprawling multidistrict litigation (MDL) in a Michigan federal court. The purchasers have alleged that NSK and other auto parts makers conspired to restrict competition for bearings and other components in the U.S.
The MDL, in the Eastern District of Michigan, followed the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) own ongoing investigation into the auto parts industry that has already yielded more than $2 billion in fines. The MDL has been split into separate proceedings for different automotive parts. As a result of the DOJ investigation, nine Japanese auto parts makers, including NSK, agreed to pay $740 million in fines in 2013 and two executives have agreed to plead guilty to their roles in international price-fixing conspiracies that increased the cost of cars sold in the U.S. The alleged price-fixing affected dozens of products that were sold to some of the largest automobile manufacturers in the U.S., including General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. Among the other parts affected by the alleged price-fixing were windshield wipers, air conditioning systems and power steering assemblies.
Other companies implicated in the investigation included Hitachi Automotive Systems. Ltd., which agreed to pay a $195 million fine; Mitsubishi Electric Corp., which agreed to pay a $190 million fine; and Mistuba Corp., which paid a $135 million fine. Yazaki Corp. in September 2014 agreed to pay $76 million in the litigation, resolving all claims brought by end payors in three separate cases. The settlement included claims brought against Yazaki in cases involving wire harnesses, instrument panel clusters and fuel senders. That same month, TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. agreed to pay $5.4 million to settle end payors’ claims that it conspired with other auto parts makers to fix the price of occupant safety systems, according to court documents.
The automobile dealer Plaintiff class is represented by Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca LLP, Larson King LLP, Barrett Law Group PA, and Mantese Honigman Rossman & Williamson PC. The end payor Plaintiffs are represented by Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP, Robins Kaplan LLP,Susman Godfrey LLP, and The Miller Law Firm PC. NSK Ltd. and NSK Americas Inc. are represented by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn LLP. The MDL is In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation, all in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.