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Mitsubishi Materials cooperates with US on data scandal

Japanese maker of aircraft sealant hopes for leniency with self-reporting

Data tampering at five Mitsubishi Materials subsidiaries may have violated U.S. law. (Photo by Maho Obata)

TOKYO -- Japan's Mitsubishi Materials has voluntarily provided information to the U.S. Justice Department regarding its falsification of product quality data, a company source told Nikkei on Monday, as Japanese and American authorities look to get to the bottom of years of systemic fraud involving such products as O-ring seals for airplanes.

The industrial materials maker concluded that the tampering that came to light last November may have violated U.S. law, and it handed over materials including the results of an internal investigation, the source said. Five of the company's subsidiaries were found to have faked inspection data and shipped products that failed to meet standards to customers including American companies.

Mitsubishi Materials told Nikkei it is unable to comment on the case.

Companies that tamper with data often face fraud charges in the U.S. Investigations into corporate crime there may be initiated by the Justice Department or start with a voluntary report by the business involved.

Since most cases are resolved with plea deals, showing a willingness to cooperate by self-reporting is often rewarded with a lighter penalty, an expert on U.S. criminal investigations said.

According to the final report issued by Mitsubishi Materials in March, subsidiary Mitsubishi Cable Industries falsified inspection data for O-ring sealing products used in aircraft and other applications. The then-president of another unit ordered the concealment of documents related to data tampering.

Tokyo prosecutors raided several Mitsubishi Materials units last month for allegedly misrepresenting product information. Mitsubishi Materials' headquarters was also searched due to the parent company's relationship to the case.

The Justice Department previously subpoenaed Kobe Steel for materials related to a similar scandal, for which it was indicted in Japan last month.

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