Last updated: September 26. 2013 11:24PM - 512 Views

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Japan parts makers

in price-fixing plea

Nine Japanese auto parts manufacturers and two of their executives will plead guilty and pay $740 million in criminal fines for conspiring to fix the prices of more than 30 products sold to many of the world’s largest automakers operating in the U.S., the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The action is the latest development in the largest criminal investigation the Justice Department’s criminal division has ever carried out. To date, it has resulted in charges against 20 companies and 21 executives, and the companies have agreed to pay $1.6 billion in criminal fines.

From steering assemblies to seat belts, the price-fixing conspiracies went on for more than a decade and affected more than $5 billion in auto parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers and installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere. In all, more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers have been affected by the illegal conduct.

Seventeen of the 21 executives charged so far have been sentenced to serve prison terms in the U.S. or have plea agreements calling for significant time behind bars.

The companies charged Thursday are Hitachi Automotive Systems; Mitsubishi Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries; Mitsuba; Jtekt; NSK; T.RAD; Valeo Japan and Yamashita Rubber.

Lumber Liquidators

HQ is searched

Federal authorities on Thursday executed a search warrant at the headquarters of hardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations spokesman Brandon Montgomery said the warrant was executed at the company’s Toano, Va., headquarters in coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Justice. No other information about the details of the search was provided and Montgomery said the warrant is sealed. He could not say whether the warrant was related to a particular person or for the company as a whole.

Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc. has more than 305 stores in North America.

Air Products CEO

decides to retire

Averting a potentially disruptive and costly proxy battle, Air Products Chief Executive John McGlade has decided to retire from the Trexlertown company.

Air Products has a facility in Hanover Township.

The decision, announced Thursday morning, comes less than two months after activist investor Bill Ackman disclosed he had acquired a major stake in Air Products, one of two Fortune 500 companies in the Lehigh Valley.

“The actions our board is announcing today will ensure an orderly leadership transition and a company that is well positioned to deliver long-term shareholder value,” McGlade, who is 59, said in a press release from Air Products.

Generally, activist investors target companies they believe could be made more profitable if better managed. To this end, they pressure companies to adopt what they see as necessary changes, and the first change, in many cases, is firing the CEO.

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