Panasonic to pay $56.5M for price fixing

WASHINGTON The Justice Department says Panasonic Corp. (PC) and a subsidiary, SANYO Electric Co. Ltd., have agreed to plead guilty in a price-fixing conspiracy involving auto parts and battery cells and to pay $56.5 million in criminal fines.

Panasonic's guilty plea involves prices for auto parts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Mazda Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Separately, SANYO and another company, LG Chem Ltd., agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices of lithium ion batteries sold for notebook computer battery packs. LG Chem has agreed to pay a $1 million criminal fine.

The pleas are part of an ongoing probe in which 11 companies and 15 executives have agreed to pay more than $874 million in criminal fines.

In a press release, Joseph S. Campbell, FBI Criminal Investigative Division deputy assistant director, said: "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. 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."

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