The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division levied more than $1.13 billion in criminal fines during fiscal year 2012, an almost 50 percent increase over 2011, according to numbers compiled by the division’s former director of criminal enforcement.
Nearly 90 percent of the 2012 criminal fines were against auto parts manufacturers DENSO and Yazaki and LCD panel maker AU Optronics, Terzaken’s analysis found. DENSO and Yazaki, both Japanese companies, agreed in January to pay a total of $548 million in criminal fines for price-fixing violations. Taiwain’s AU Optronics paid $500 million in September to settle charges against the company.
“That’s a really significant development and I think punctuated by the fact that is the most the Antitrust Division has ever obtained in the history of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which has been around for 122 years,” Terzaken told Fox Business.
The former Antitrust Division official said cartel investigations of the auto-parts industry will likely remain a focus, which could mean another record year in 2013.
“The auto-parts investigation really is at its infancy, but also you have other wide-ranging investigations out there that have been widely publicized like the LIBOR investigation. I think 2013 stands to outpace 2012,” Terzaken told Fox Business.
The ongoing criminal probe of LIBOR may yield major fines for the department, he said. In June, Barclays Bank Plc paid a $160 million penalty to resolve allegations the bank helped manipulate LIBOR, a key interest rate benchmark. Today, three men were arrested in Great Britain and questioned as part of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office’s own investigation.
Terzaken also noted the continued focus on foreign violators. In terms of the number of fines in fiscal year 2012, 58 percent were paid by Asia-Pacific-based companies, 25 percent by companies based in Europe, and only 17 percent were paid by corporations based in the Americas, Terzaken found. When looking at the size of the penalty, the Asia-Pacific region was hit worst, accounting for 95 percent of the overall amount of penalties obtained, he wrote.