TRW Automotive unit settles U.S. price-fixing

Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:59pm EDT

* TRW is seventh company to settle in probe

* TRW says price-fixing "not consistent with our policies"

* Ten people have pleaded guilty in connection with probe

WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - A German subsidiary of TRW Automotive Holdings Corp has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to fix the prices of air bags, steering wheels and seatbelts and to pay a $5.1 million criminal fine, the Justice Department and the company said on Monday.

The Justice Department's Antitrust Division probe into price fixing of auto parts has led to settlements with six other companies. The European Commission has a parallel investigation.

An employee at the subsidiary, TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, may face U.S. prosecution in the case, the company said in a statement.

The TRW subsidiary agreed to plead guilty to a single count of price-fixing filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

The department said that TRW and other companies agreed to divide up the market for seat belts, airbags and steering wheels so they could be sold at higher prices.

"The actions connected with the DOJ settlement announced today conflict with what TRW stands for and are not consistent with our policies," said TRW Automotive Chairman and CEO John Plant in a statement. "Once we learned of the investigation, we moved very quickly to cooperate with the DOJ (Justice Department) and bring this matter to a resolution."

The company had 2011 sales of $16.2 billion and is headquartered in Livonia, Michigan.

Six other companies have agreed to plead guilty in the case. They are Swedish auto parts company Autoliv, Fujikura Ltd, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd, Denso Corp , Yazaki Corp and G.S. Electech. They have agreed to pay more than $785 million in criminal fines.

Ten people have also agreed to plead guilty in connection with the probe.

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