Panasonic has agreed to pay $56.5 million in fines for its part in price fixing conspiracies. The US Department of Justice announced
that the Japanese electronics manufacturer will plead guilty for helping fix the prices of automotive parts and battery cells, which inflated the production cost of notebooks and cars for various manufacturers.
One fine of $45.8 million is being paid by Panasonic for the automotive conspiracy, which found the company working with others to "maintain the prices" of lighting equipment to Honda, Mazda, and Nissan. It also worked to keep the price static for other important components, such as switches and sensors, under the three-count felony.
The remaining $10.7 million is being paid by Sanyo
, a subsidiary of Panasonic. The single charge stems from Sanyo and LG Chem working together to keep the price up for lithium ion battery cells between April 2007 and September 2008.
Department of Justice states that 11 companies, including Panasonic, and 15 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and pay a total of more than $874 million in fines. So far, 12 individuals have been sentenced to pay fines and to serve jail sentences ranging between one and two years each. Three other executives have agreed to serve jail time, and are waiting to be sentenced.
"These investigations illustrate our efforts to ensure market fairness for US businesses by bringing corporations to justice when their commercial activity violates antitrust laws," said Joseph S. Campbell, the FBI Criminal Investigative Division deputy assistant director.
Panasonic is not the only company found to have fixed the prices of components. The European Commission fined seven electronics manufacturers 1.47 billion euro ($1.92 billion) at the end of last year
for their parts in "textbook cartels." LG, Philips, Samsung, and others were found to have taken part in a cathode ray tube (CRT) price cartel, which affected the manufacturing cost of televisions and monitors between 1996 and 2006.