Three German Executives Indicted for Participation in Parking Heater Price-Fixing Scheme
WASHINGTON—A federal grand jury in Detroit returned an indictment against Frank Haeusler, Volker Hohensee and Harald Sailer for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to fix the prices of parking heaters.
The indictment charges the three German executives—one current and two former—with conspiring to fix the prices of parking heaters used in commercial vehicles and sold in the aftermarket in the United States and elsewhere. Parking heaters are devices that heat the interior compartment of a motor vehicle independent of the operation of the vehicle’s engine.
“These senior company officials conspired to fix the aftermarket prices of parking heaters sold to hundreds of businesses throughout the United States and North America,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Today’s indictment reinforces the Department of Justice’s commitment to prosecute those who scheme to thwart competition.”
“Today’s charges outline a deceptive scheme to subvert competition in the marketplace,” said Assistant Director in Charge Diego G. Rodriguez. “Those who engage in this type of criminal activity not only stand to defraud consumers, but erode the public’s trust in the competitive bidding process. The FBI will continue to work with the Antitrust Division to ensure the integrity of competition across all industries.”
The indictment, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges that Hohensee, Haeusler and Sailer worked together with other conspirators to artificially set aftermarket prices for parking heaters used in commercial vehicles in the United States and beyond. The charged executives and their co-conspirators met to discuss parking heater prices, agreed to set a price floor for parking heater kits and also agreed to coordinate the timing and amount of price increases for parking heaters.
According to the charge, the conspiracy existed from as early as October 2007 and lasted until at least Nov. 19, 2012. Hohensee is the former president of Espar Inc. and a resident of Canada; Haeusler is a former vice president of Espar Inc.’s German affiliate, Eberspaecher Climate Control Systems; and Sailer held the same position at Eberspaecher and remains an executive with the company.
On March 12, 2015, Espar Inc. admitted its role in the price-fixing conspiracy and pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The company was sentenced on June 25, 2015 and has paid a $14.9 million criminal fine.
Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation handled by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office with assistance from the FBI’s New York Field Office. Anyone with information concerning price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct in the parking heater industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.