The Antitrust Division over at the U.S. Department of Justice has gotten busy.

Blawgletter mentioned in February 2009 that the AD had confirmed a probe of companies that make compressors for such like as refrigerators and freezers.

This Thursday, the Division disclosed that "Panasonic Corporation and a Whirlpool Corporation subsidiary, Embraco North America Inc., have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a total of $140.9 million in criminal fines for their role in an international conspiracy to fix the prices of refrigerant compressors, which are used in refrigerators and freezers in homes and businesses".

The press release gave just a sketchy description of the international conspiracy – maybe because these represent "the first charges as a result of the Antitrust Division's ongoing investigation into the worldwide refrigerant compressors market" and that charges against others will probably follow.

The impending guilty pleas capped a seven-day period during which the Antitrust division announced plea deals with several high-tech behemoths, an international air cargo carrier, and six freight forwarders.  Posts here, here, and here.