Panasonic, Sanyo Admit Guilt in Laptop Battery Price Fixing Conspiracy

Panasonic and its subsidiary Sanyo (by way of a 50.2 percent stake in the company) both pleaded guilty in separate price fixing allegations involving automotive parts and battery cells, the United States Department of Justice announced this week. The two firms will pay a total of $56.5 million in criminal fines, while LG Chem Ltd., a leading manufacturer of secondary batteries, also admitted guilt and will pay a fine of $1.056 million.

The DoJ accused Panasonic of conspiring to fix prices of switches, steering angle sensors, and automotive high intensity discharge (HID) ballasts installed in cars sold in the U.S. and elsewhere. Panasonic carried out its scheme from at least as early as September 2003 until at least February 2010. According to the DoJ, Panasonic and its co-conspirators agreed during meetings and conversations to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry by agreeing to rig bids for certain parts sold to Toyota. Other similar charges date all the back to July 1998.

Panasonic

Sanyo, on the other hand, pleaded guilty to a single felony charge accusing it and LG Chem of conspiring to fix the price of the cylindrical lithium ion battery cells used notebook computer battery packs from around April 2007 until about September 2008.

"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.

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