TOKYO/DETROIT - The FBI raided three Detroit-area Japanese auto parts makers for a sealed federal antitrust investigation, including Toyota Motor Corp affiliate Denso Corp, authorities said on Wednesday.
While the substance or reason behind the FBI's warrants were not revealed, Denso and a person familiar with the investigation said the searches were unrelated to Toyota's safety recalls.
Shares in Denso, Japan's largest supplier of car parts which is 22.5 percent owned by Toyota, dropped 3.1 percent while those of Tokai Rika Co, another Toyota affiliate tumbled 5.6 percent. The third company was Yazaki Corp., which is privately held and does not have any automakers among its shareholders.
The U.S. Justice Department said it was investigating the possibility of anti-competitive cartel conduct by automotive electronic components suppliers.
The department is coordinating its investigation with regulators in Europe, spokeswoman Gina Talamona said.
News about the raids came just hours before Toyota President Akio Toyoda testified at a congressional hearing on its recall woes. The FBI's Detroit division served warrants on Tuesday evening, Special Agent Sandra Berchtold said in a statement.
"This took place just as Toyota's recall problems have spiraled to the point of congressional hearings. Investors have apparently associated this with what Toyota has been through," said Shigeru Matsumura, an analyst at SMBC Friend Research Center.
"I would not be surprised if some investors now have Japan bashing on their minds," he said.
In the Detroit area, the FBI carried out searches at Denso's office in Southfield, Michigan and Tokai Rika's offices in Plymouth, Michigan, as well as at Yazaki, the FBI said.
Denso, which supplies accelerator pedals and other parts to Toyota, confirmed that the raid on its U.S. offices was part of an investigation into alleged antitrust violations and that it was not related to Toyota's recalls.
Denso spokeswoman Bridgette Gollinger said the company was cooperating with the investigation.
Yazaki disclosed that FBI agents had also conducted searches at facilities in Kentucky and Ohio, in addition to Michigan, suggesting that investigators had cast a wider net in searching for evidence of antitrust activity.
Yazaki spokeswoman Shefali Cromer said the company was not told of the nature of the investigation.
Tokai Rika confirmed the search at its Detroit offices.
Denso's shares were 3.1 percent lower at 2,411 yen while those of Tokai Rika slid 5.6 percent to 1,590 yen in comparison to a 1 percent decline for the Nikkei benchmark
The FBI raids were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
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