SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A grand jury charged two Japanese businessmen for their role in an alleged global conspiracy to fix prices for components used in computer hard disk drives, federal officials announced Friday.
Hitoshi Hashimoto and Hiroyuki Tamura, both former top sales executives at NHK Spring Co. Ltd., were indicted Thursday in federal court in San Francisco, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Japanese manufacturer NHK Spring Co. Ltd. (NHK Spring) last year pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to pay a $28.5 million fine.
Federal prosecutors say that from May 2008 and through at least April 2016, Hashimoto and Tamura participated in a conspiracy with their competitors “to stabilize, maintain, and fix the prices of suspension assemblies used in hard disk drives.”
It wasn’t immediately known if Hashimoto and Tamura have attorneys who would speak on their behalf.
Suspension assemblies are components of hard disk drives, which are used to store information and are incorporated into computers or sold as stand-alone electronic storage devices.
Hashimoto and Tamura fixed prices on the components by agreeing to refrain from competing on prices and allocating their respective market shares, prosecutors said. The conspirators also exchanged pricing information including anticipated pricing quotes, which they used to inform their negotiations with U.S. and foreign customers that purchased suspension assemblies and produced hard disk drives for sale in, or delivery to, the United States and elsewhere, the department said.
“The individuals indicted yesterday tried to cheat the system and unfairly profit at the expense of American consumers,” said Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI, with our partners at the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General and the Department of Justice, disrupted their scheme and now these individuals will face justice.”
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.