Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Another Antitrust Settlement in Freight Forwarding Class Action on RoRo Vehicle Shipping

One More Cartel Member Puts Their Hands Up
Shipping News Feature

US – JAPAN – A settlement has been reached with Japanese shipping giant Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in a major class-action antitrust lawsuit filed by a group of plaintiffs which include freight forwarding groups, indirect purchasers of millions of vehicles transported to the US, and car, truck and equipment dealerships. The plaintiffs claim that more than a dozen international RoRo cargo companies unlawfully conspired in a cartel to rig bids, fix prices and overcharge for their services.

This marks the second significant settlement in the Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigation following an agreement reached last month with another Japanese freight giant, K Line. While the financial terms of both settlements remain confidential, they are expected to become public in documents seeking court approval.

Last month, the defendants asked US District Judge Esther Salas of Newark to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that the 1984 Shipping Act pre-empts state antitrust laws that protect indirect purchasers against price-fixing. Dallas attorney Warren T. Burns of Burns Charest LLP, interim co-lead counsel for the end-payor plaintiffs, argued on behalf of all indirect purchasers that state antitrust laws complement the Shipping Act, and that Congress did not intend to bar such state claims. Commenting on the settlement, Burns said:

"This is the second major settlement in a month, demonstrating the strength of our clients' claims. This should send a strong signal to the remaining defendants that it is time to resolve this case. We expect that the court will make a decision very soon. We are confident that the court will work through the issues carefully and deny the defendants' motions."

The other defendants include among others NYK Line and CSAV, both of which previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy that is still being investigated by the federal government. Other carriers named in the lawsuit are K Line, World Logistics Service, Hoegh, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, and EUKOR. In February 2014, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Defendant CSAV agreed to plead guilty and pay an $8.9 million criminal fine and in September of the same year, K Line also agreed to plead guilty and pay a $67.7 million criminal fine for its involvement in the conspiracy. In December 2014, NYK entered a guilty plea and was ordered to pay $59.4 million.

This case is In Re: Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigation, No. 13-cv-3306 (MDL No. 2471).