WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Japan's Minebea Co Ltd has agreed to plead guilty to fixing the prices of ball bearings and to pay a $13.5 million criminal fine, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.
Minebea's decision to plead guilty is the latest in a series of probes by antitrust enforcers globally into price-fixing of more than 30 types of car parts, including seat belts, radiators, windshield wipers, air-conditioning systems, power window motors and power steering components.
Minebea's plea brings to 34 the number of companies which have been charged with fixing prices of auto parts in the United States. It had been accused of conspiring with an unnamed competitor to set the prices of ball bearings from 2008 to 2011.
In addition to the companies, 50 executives of auto parts companies have either pleaded guilty or been indicted in the investigation.
Other auto parts companies that have settled include Takata Corp, Autoliv Inc, Tokai Rika Co Ltd, Japan's Sanden Corp, Nippon Seiki Co Ltd, Furukawa Electric Co Ltd and Fujikura Ltd.
An attempt to reach Minebea, which is based in Japan, was not immediately successful. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)