TOKYO (AP) — Japanese tire maker Bridgestone announced Tuesday that it will withdraw from the marine hose business after an internal investigation discovered its hose division made improper payments to foreign agents to secure sales.
The investigation was being conducted in connection with a probe of Bridgestone Corp. by the U.S. Department of Justice, the European Commission and Japan's Fair Trade Commission on suspicion of involvement in an international marine hose cartel, the company said in a statement.
The foreign agents receiving the improper payments from Bridgestone may have in turn paid overseas government officials, which would break Japanese laws against using bribes to secure contracts, the Tokyo-based company said.
The company reported its findings to Japanese prosecutors and pledged to cooperate if they choose to investigate the case. It has already reported the matter to the U.S. Justice Department and is cooperating with their investigation, it said.
The company did not identify who the foreign agents were or where they were located.
In addition to the inappropriate payments it had found tied to the marine hose business, its third-party investigative team was finding ''similar instances in relation to other industrial products'' sold by the company, Bridgestone said without elaboration.
Bridgestone plans to continue the team's investigations, and will take ''proper disciplinary action'' against the management and employees involved in accordance with internal regulations, it said.
The Japanese manufacturer — the world's largest tire and rubber products maker by sales — also said it will continue providing services for those who use its marine hose products, though it will stop taking new orders.
The company's decision to stop taking orders for hoses used to transfer oil between tankers and storage facilities will likely only have a minor impact on its overall business. Sales in its marine hose business accounted for only 0.17 percent of its overall sales in 2006.