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Jail Time For Price-Fixing Car Parts 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the hey-they-did-something dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Dept. of Justice has announced that Panasonic and its subsidiary Sanyo have been fined $56.5 million for their roles in price fixing conspiracies involving battery cells and car parts. The fines are part of a larger investigation into the prices of auto parts. Interestingly, 12 people at various companies have been sentenced to jail time, and three more are going to prison. Since the charges are felonies, none of the sentences are shorter than a year and a day. Criminal fines targeting these companies has totaled over $874 million. '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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Jail Time For Price-Fixing Car Parts

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  • Banksters (Score:2, Insightful)

    And the banksters go free.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yep. Banksters do far worse by several orders of magnitude and get away with it.The biggest crime of these companies is probably that they were foreign and did not do enough to buy off US politicians,

    • *Yawn* obvious comment is obvious karmawhore.

    • Re:Banksters (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @04:15AM (#44340727)

      Well it turns out that the US justice system is one such that people have to actually violate a law to be tried and convicted, not to just make someone on Slashdot mad. So, if you think a banker should go to jail, then let's hear the details: Who is it, what law did they break, and what evidence do you have of this? Also remember it had to be illegal at the time they did it. If new laws were introduced later in response to what happened, those don't count, the US Constitution explicitly prohibits ex post facto laws.

      "They caused the economy to crash!" is not a valid answer, and also shows a rather large amount of ignorance of the situation (if you think the downturn had a singular cause, you need to do more research).

      This whining gets a little old. People cry that "the bankers" (or "banksters" in your case) should go to jail but yet never seem to be able to cite specifics. That to me says you don't actually know of any laws broken, you are just mad and think that you're angry should be reason enough to convict someone.

      So, if there are specific cases you think should be prosecuted, then don't whine about "banksters" as some large group, any more than someone should whine about "hackers" as some large group. Post those specific cases. If not, then maybe spend some time reconsidering your position.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Lets ignore the fact that your words ring hollow because they bribed and bought the system to make their acts legal. There were things which should at least result in a court case.

        Improper reporting of their assets. They claimed their collateralised debt obligations were worth more than they were on their balance sheets and there is clear evidence they knew they were worth less than they claimed. How about Merril Lynch selling CDOs to Lonestar, claiming it was for 22% of the face value when the terms of the

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          We should be going through our banking system one banker at a time searching all their records and looking for anything they may have done which was complicit in causing the crash and going after each and every one of them personally, no point in going after the banks themselves if we are just going to bail them out..

          No, you should be going after the government that executed ideas because they wanted to "open up the system." It's a fine bubble to live in when you believe that "da banks caused it all" when in fact many banks were against the idea of removing regulations in the first place. Especially when dealing with sub primes. Sadly the government in turn gave the banks and lenders the great ultimatum. Follow or loose FDIC backing. So the banks followed, and they gamed the hell out of it because it became legal t

        • by khallow (566160)
          Again, if it is legal, then it isn't a crime - by definition.

          We should be going through our banking system one banker at a time searching all their records and looking for anything they may have done which was complicit in causing the crash and going after each and every one of them personally, no point in going after the banks themselves if we are just going to bail them out.

          You need probably cause for that in the US. You don't have that, but just some vague feeling that they should have broken laws by acting as they did.

          • The two examples I gave are of things for which there are definitely laws against, and HSBC were let of with a slap on the wrist. That is why I listen them. We have probable cause, they misfiled their reports to the SEC, the value they claimed their assets had they didn't. I happy to let the few banks which didn't require bailout money go, for the rest we have a reasonable suspicion they mislead the regulator and can search their records.

        • How about Merril Lynch selling CDOs to Lonestar, claiming it was for 22% of the face value when the terms of the deal made it clear they were only selling them for about 6% of the face value.

          Merril Lynch and Lonestar are big boys. If they can't read and understand the fine-print, it's their own stupid fault. Both are global companies with plenty of lawyers.

          They claimed their collateralised debt obligations were worth more than they were on their balance sheets and there is clear evidence they knew they were worth less than they claimed.

          It doesn't matter what they 'knew,' it matters if they followed the rules of accounting.

          they bribed and bought the system to make their acts legal.

          Yeah, that's a serious problem, one that unfortunately Dodd-Frank makes worse.

          no point in going after the banks themselves if we are just going to bail them out.

          We shouldn't 'just' bail them out. Any bank that needs a bailout should be broken up and sold in pieces. This is what Paul Volcker proposed: too big to fail should be too big to

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Merril Lynch and Lonestar are big boys. If they can't read and understand the fine-print, it's their own stupid fault. Both are global companies with plenty of lawyers.

            If they made false claims with the intend to defraud, it's a crime.

            It doesn't matter what they 'knew,' it matters if they followed the rules of accounting.

            If they made false... oh, you know.

            • If they made false claims with the intend to defraud, it's a crime.

              The fine print is the full disclosure. The rest is understood to be non-binding. If they mislead in marketing to consumers, it might still be fraud, but not to sophisticated investors, who should understand that the contract is what matters, not the talking before-hand.

              If they made false... oh, you know.

              No, you are wrong, SOX requires following GAAP, even if it's completely misleading (which is why many companies are releasing a second accounting report in addition to GAAP financial report).

      • by dmbasso (1052166)

        Perhaps you should also do your homework, like getting informed of what is happening in the world. Preferably outside the media bubble that broadcasts lies for profit.

        But I'll give you one breadcrumb, google for "libor fixing". I guess that will keep you entertained for a while.

        Btw, do you think the term "too big to jail" arose without a reason? There was a recent senate hearing on banks, you can find some enlightening videos on youtube. Specifically, look for senator Elizabeth Warren's questions. I mention

        • Specifically, look for senator Elizabeth Warren's questions.

          If you're talking about this movie [youtube.com], you should realize you just fell for some great political theater. Seriously, even the title screams it. Hearings are a great way for politicians to look like they are doing something, and it's a tradition that goes back to the 1800s (if not longer), talking as though you will persecute big business, but then actually being on their side.

          In the case of Elizabeth Warren, she's more then willing to defend big business, if they pay.

          Be careful when you make a politician

      • by bfandreas (603438)
        I find it remarkable that the corporate veil has actually been breached in this one. Usually personal wrong-doing is not prosecuted in price-fixing cases. The companies in question get fined and that's the end of it. Or at least that was my understanding.
      • by jellie (949898)

        Here's a recent example: Blythe Masters, an executive at JP Morgan Chase, may escape prosecution [nytimes.com] after having manipulated energy prices in California and Michigan. Officials have accused her of rigging prices, and they also accuse JP Morgan Chase of trying to cover up the evidence. Strangely, the recommendation was for a civil case, not a criminal case, against Ms. Masters.

      • People cry that "the bankers" (or "banksters" in your case) should go to jail but yet never seem to be able to cite specifics.

        S&P clearly committed fraud in giving its AAA credit ratings to instruments that clearly did not deserve them. People have been talking about this since 2008 - how could you have missed it as the most specific and provable cause of the financial crisis?

        There was also substantial fraud in the CDO market that was very well publicized.

        There were material misrepresentations and coll

        • S&P clearly committed fraud in giving its AAA credit ratings to instruments that clearly did not deserve them.

          And when S&P degrades the federal government's credit rating, the gov't sues.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Well it turns out that the US justice system is one such that people have to actually violate a law to be tried and convicted, not to just make someone on Slashdot mad.

        And that is why corruption is rampant on wall street. I do not think that it is possible to prevent major economic problems in the modern world simply by creating a set of detailed rules and strictly enforcing them. To be more explicit, I think that if your legal system is such that is possible to know whether an act is legal in advance of committing the act then the legal system will not be adequate for preventing undesired outcomes like insiders having unfair advantage, massive concentration of wealth,

      • by sjames (1099)

        Multi-billion dollar fraud has been documented including knowingly selling junk as AAA. BOA continues illegally foreclosing on homes (even homes they don't hold a loan on in some cases). If the SEC, DOJ, etc don't see any crimes on Wall Street it's because they're looking the other way.

      • by Macdude (23507)

        This whining gets a little old. People cry that "the bankers" (or "banksters" in your case) should go to jail but yet never seem to be able to cite specifics. That to me says you don't actually know of any laws broken, you are just mad and think that you're angry should be reason enough to convict someone.

        How about we start with the F'ing bankers who were laundering billions but didn't get charged with any criminal activity and their organization only got a token fine because it would be "bad for the econom

    • I was going to say the same thing.

    • by dragonard (261270)

      Words from my mouth.

    • They're working on it. The cases are complicaed. The first few are coming in. I think there'll be a lot more.
  • Now if they could so similar for the Studios we may be onto a winner.

    (Note: I realise the studios haven't been found to be doing this but why should we let something like that stop us? Little things like facts don't seem to stop the studios pulling similar stunts.)

    • Bankers

      Wall Street

      Studios (music & movie)

      Cable Internet Providers

      . . .

      If they really mean

      "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."

      Then they should pretty much all go to jail.

      Oops. Almost forgot Obama. I mean, it's not like the revolving door had anything to do with this stuff, right? (/sarcasm)

      • The current topic is price fixing.
        Internet providers pay the politicians for a government enforced monopoly so they can set prices without effective competition in a market.
        Movie studios use 90s Microsoft style tactics to exploit and maintain artificially high prices.

        At bankrate.com, I see dozens of banks competing on price. Certainly some in the scumbags are in the financial sector, and many offer services that aren't easy to understand, but where's the price fixing by banks? Not to say there isn't any,
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by noh8rz8 (2716593)

          libor. rate fixing to make borrowing more expensive and lending more profitable.

        • Mobile phone charges should be on the list. Try getting a fair deal without a "sponsored" phone or getting support for a phone you haven't purchased with your plan. This can only be price fixing. Maybe there's no direct proof (yet) of phone companies negotiating about these, but it's sure odd that none of the big companies offer competitive no-sponsored-handset deals.

          The same applies to roaming charges. The companies bill each other for those and only the difference actually gets paid. In reality, this mea

        • by cornjones (33009)

          You are speaking only about the consumer/retaion banking side. There is some competition in rates on the retail banking side but we still have problems with exorbitant fees that seem pretty collusive. The commercial and investment banking are more problematic.

          One question i have had for some time that seems appropriate here is how there are such margins in banking? Why don't the competitive pressure in the banking industry drive down the margins? We have banking bonuses in teh billions of dollars going

          • by sjames (1099)

            If we had well regulated healthy markets, yes. But what we have is unregulated markets dominated by a few big players.

            Frankly if you do that analysis all over our economy, you'll find a LOT of unhealthy markets.

        • Well, sale of high-risk derivative bundles that the banks know are high-risk but that are marketed as "conservative" investments might be construed as price-fixing.

          And the Fed, while it has some other functions, is essentially price-fixing on a vast scale.
  • How about using it against someone besides some poor schmuck found with a roach in the ashtray? Beats the hell out of giving the bastard free room and board...

    • by ridley4 (1535661)

      But, I thought in this modern era of human resources, employees were the assets seized!

    • How about using it against someone besides some poor schmuck found with a roach in the ashtray? Beats the hell out of giving the bastard free room and board...

      Yes, because making it profitable to arrest someone is such a good idea. What could possibly go wrong?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Yes, because making it profitable to arrest someone is such a good idea. What could possibly go wrong?

        That's already how it is. The state gets to seize anything used in the commission of a crime. The ability to seize property (both land and otherwise) is one of the big motivators for states to participate in the War On Personal Freedom (aka the War On Drugs.) What could possibly go wrong is selective enforcement, and not seizing these particlar ill-gotten gains is a prime example thereof. Bill Gates' fortune is another. Now it's been sunk into a tax dodge and is being used to spread restrictive IP laws like

      • by cffrost (885375)

        How about using it against someone besides some poor schmuck found with a roach in the ashtray? Beats the hell out of giving the bastard free room and board...

        Yes, because making it profitable to arrest someone is such a good idea. What could possibly go wrong?

        The possibilities are endless... They could make it illegal to carry "too much" cash. They could assume that someone they busted for selling dime-bags came by all of their possessions illegally — (guilty until proven innocent — that's our system, isn't it?). If things got really our of control, we might even live to see the day they build private prisons [wikipedia.org] in this country.

        If it ever got to that point, though, we'd be well and truly fucked. Could you imagine the headlines? "US industrial prison sys [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Interesting to compare the US action to those of Australia where US companies have been involved in price fixing and anti-competitive behavior.

  • I could use some reimbursement on the countless batteries and misc crap i've apparently been f*cked on

  • Unfair prices for consumers of laptops... as long as you blatantly raise prices just because you can, like certain Adobe and Apple products costing 50% more outside of the U.S f.ex, then it's all fine apparently!

  • ... but if I were to rob a bank or steal expensive objects worth millions I wold be in prison for 20 years.
  • Not a single Wall Street banker has been thrown in jail, despite dealings that nearly bankrupt the country and destabilized the global economy.

    I'd think that's a bit more egregious behavior than price fixing car batteries. But clearly the US Government knows best how to protect us from unscrupulous business behavior.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Corporations own everything and run the government. There are no fines, no jail sentences, this can't happen. Obviously.

    Editors, please check your sources in the future because you've been tricked by a fake story.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @12:22PM (#44342807)

    I really think prison is being misused by most of the world, especially the United States.

    I believe it should only ever be used to separate the most extremely, immediately, physically and irremediably dangerous from the rest of us to keep society safe. I'm talking about murderers, rapists, violent assailants, the kind of people who commit extreme acts and intend to keep doing them. Putting the drug dealers and possessors, scammers, petty thieves, civil disputers, drunks, the negligent and so on costs us more than benefits.

    This euphemism of "paying your debt to society" by spending time in a cement box always elicits uproarious laughter from me ... how is someone paying their debt when we're the ones footing the bill for their room and board??

    Prison should never be about "paying your debt", not that it's even possible in that manner. If we want people to "pay their debt", garnish their wages and have them pay back the *exact people against whom they committed the acts*. If that's not enough, put them in community service or other work programs, where they'll actually be performing work that will repay society, not cost it.

    Of course, there are underlying societal problems (poverty, increasing class inequality, antagonistic political attitudes, inadequate healthcare for the mentally ill) that are deeply rooted in reasons we send people to prison. It's just so much easier to throw them in a box than it is to address the real problems at their core. Law, it seems, has grown into this trolling monster that exists only to perpetuate itself while falsely purporting to serve the public.

  • Phones, tablets, game consoles... they all do it.

    There's been a bunch of web sites that have torn down these products and priced the parts. They all come close to the retail price of the product. But no one takes into consideration that these companies order parts by the millions (If they don't make some themselves).

  • How do they put a corporation in jail?

    • Prohibit it from doing business for a period of time? What? You're saying that would hurt it? As in, might actually be a penalty?
  • Foreign Companies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by runeghost (2509522) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @02:41PM (#44343945)
    Obviously, they haven't mastered the fine American art of purchasing politicans and judges.
  • Now, what about Oil companies, Telcos and similar crooks.

  • Oh, Thanks be to Dog! I thought it might have been computer batteries

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