On September 15, 2011, Bridgestone Corporation, a Tokyo-headquartered manufacturer of marine hose and other industrial products, agreed to plead guilty and pay a $28 million criminal fine for its role in conspiracies to rig bids and to make corrupt payments to government officials related to the sale of marine hose and other industrial products. Bridgestone was charged with conspiring to violate both the Sherman Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to the court document, Bridgestone conspired to rig bids, fix prices and allocate market shares of marine hose in the U.S. and elsewhere, and, separately, conspired to make corrupt payments to government officials in various Latin American countries to obtain and retain business. Bridgestone participated in the conspiracies from January 1999 to May 2007.
Regarding the antitrust charge, Bridgestone and its co-conspirators agreed not to compete for one another’s customers either by not submitting prices or bids, or by submitting intentionally high prices or bids to certain customers. Bridgestone also authorized and approved corrupt payments to foreign government officials employed at state-owned entities in Latin America in order to secure sales. Local sales agents paid employees of state-owned entities a percentage of the total value of proposed sales. These payments were hidden as “commissions” to local sales agents.
The Department of Justice recognized Bridgestone’s cooperation with the investigations, including conducting a worldwide internal investigation and voluntarily making employees available for interviews. Bridgestone also took remedial measures, including restructuring part of its business, terminating certain third-party agents, and taking remedial actions with respect to employees responsible for the corrupt payments. The Department of Justice agreed to recommend a substantially reduced fine as a result of these mitigating factors.