Taft Trial Lawyers Prevail Against DOJ in Major Antitrust Prosecution

With a unanimous defense verdict by a federal court jury last week, Tokai Kogyo Co. Ltd., a Japanese company, and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, Green Tokai Co. Ltd., were cleared of charges that they were involved in an alleged multimillion-dollar automotive parts bid rigging and price fixing conspiracy.

Taft Stettinius & Hollister clients Tokai Kogyo Co. and Green Tokai Co. Ltd. were indicted in June 2016 for allegedly conspiring to rig bids and fix prices of automotive body sealing products that were sold to Honda between 2008 and 2011. This was the first case to be tried arising from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into the auto parts industry, which began in 2009 and has resulted in the conviction of 48 companies and 65 executives, with criminal fines exceeding $2.9 billion.

Taft partners Ralph Kohnen and Chad Ziepfel teamed with co-counsel from Barnes and Thornburg to attack the credibility of the government’s immunized witnesses and to ultimately prove that Tokai and Green Tokai actually competed aggressively in the market. 

Taft used its depth of international experience and its breadth of antitrust law prowess to defend its clients in a lengthy global antitrust investigation and prosecution. After weeks of testimony and hundreds of exhibits before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati, the jury took less than four hours to deliberate and find both companies not guilty of Sherman Act violations.

“It’s never easy taking on the Department of Justice in a federal criminal trial, given all of the department’s resources,” said Kohnen, chair of Taft’s Corporate Compliance and White Collar Defense practice. “But our clients trusted the American judicial system and it prevailed. We are grateful to our clients for the trust they put in us.”

Kohnen and Ziepfel regularly assist clients with internal investigations and advocate on behalf of businesses, executives, public officers and other individuals involved in criminal prosecutions and investigations.

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