On January 30, 2014, a Japanese bearings manufacturer of motor vehicle components, NSK Ltd. (“NSK”) pleaded guilty to two counts of bid-rigging, in violation of subsection 47(2) of the Competition Act. The guilty plea arises from NSK’s participation in an international bid-rigging conspiracy. NSK was fined $4.5 million.
According to the Competition Bureau’s press release, NSK admitted that it participated in an agreement to rig bids in response to requests for quotations to supply automotive wheel hub unit bearings to an automobile manufacturer for certain models produced in Canada from 2007 to 2013. The Bureau leaved of the bearings cartel through its Immunity Program, after which it began its investigation in July 2011. NSK was the first-in leniency applicant under the Competition Bureau’s Leniency Program. The total volume of commerce affected by the big-rigging was estimated to be $53.4 million.
Second “Bearings” Guilty Plea and Fourth “Auto Parts” Guilty Plea in Canada
This is the second guilty plea and fine arising from the Competition Bureau’s international cartel investigation into bearings and fourth guilty plea and fine arising from the Competition Bureau’s international cartel investigation relating to the supply of various motor vehicle components.
- Furukawa Electric., Ltd was fined $5 million for conspiring with other Japanese manufacturers in the tendering and bidding process of supplying parts to an automobile manufacturer. The total volume of commerce affected by the big-rigging was estimated to be $41 million.
- Yazaki Corporation was fined $30 million, a record fine for bid-rigging in Canada. The conspiracy was in connection with the tendering and bidding process for supplying parts to certain automobile manufactures. The total volume of commerce affected was estimated to be $260 million.
- JTEKT Corporation was fined $5 million in connection with the tendering and bidding process for supplying bearings to an automobile manufacturer. The total volume of commerce affected was estimated to be $38.6 million.
Consistent Trend of Increased, Coordinated Enforcement
According to the Competition Bureau, it is engaged in an ongoing investigation into the motor vehicle components industry. The investigation is being coordinated with a number of other jurisdictions, including the United States, Japan, the European Union and Australia.
The NSK guilty plea and fine, along with the preceding guilty pleas and fines, underscore a number of consistent trends:
- global businesses are subject to increasing scrutiny by Canada’s Competition Bureau;
- antitrust investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sanctions are growing in Canada; and
- antitrust investigations are increasingly global, with multiple regulators investigating and prosecuting the same conduct, either working together or in parallel.