Monday, July 11, 2016

Freight Forwarding Outfits Face More Multi-Million Dollar Pay-outs Over Cartel and Antitrust Allegat

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave...........
Shipping News Feature
US - CHINA – HONG KONG – JAPAN – TAIWAN – INDIA – GERMANY – UK – EUROPE – The spectre of more multi-million dollar claims against a host of international freight forwarding operations has arisen after confirmation that four major US law firms, with offices in Minnesota, California, Washington and New York, are coordinating the class action claims by numerous companies which believe they have been the victims of artificially inflated cargo tariffs and supplementary illegal surcharges.

The lawyers, Gustafson Gluek PLLC; Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP; Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP.; and Lovell Stewart Halebian Jacobson LLP, are coordinating efforts after successfully obtaining over $300 million in settlements for the class. Settlements have now been reached with the final two defendants with settlements previously reached with twenty nine defendants, and those purchasers which used the forwarders concerned may be entitled to a potentially significant cash payment from these class action settlements. In the recent settlements DHL in the US agreed a $53 million settlement having promised to assist claimants to pursue the final agency involved, Hellmann, which has now agreed to establish its own $53.55 million settlement fund.

The amount of benefits for each purchaser will be determined by the Plan of Allocation, which is posted here, and where a list of all the forwarding companies involved can be seen. Purchasers will need to submit a Claim Form, online or by mail, by April 3, 2017 to get a payment from these settlements. If purchasers already submitted a Claim Form for the first or second round of settlements, they do not need to file a new claim as they will automatically be included in, and paid from, this round of settlements.

Purchasers who do nothing will not get a payment and give up the right to sue. Purchasers who want to keep the right to sue DHL or Hellmann must exclude themselves by September 20, 2016. Purchasers who stay in the settlements can object to them by September 20, 2016. The Court will hold a hearing on November 4, 2016 to consider whether to approve: (1) the settlements, (2) a request for attorneys' fees up to 33% of the Settlement Fund, plus interest, and reimbursement for litigation expenses; and (3) a request for Class Representative Service awards of no more than $75,000 each.

During all of the above of course the freight forwarders have regularly denied any wrongdoing with settling defendants all still maintaining they did nothing wrong. What was seen by many of them as sensible business practice has not been so interpreted by the Court but, with offences stretching back over decades, those agencies which still exist will have learned an expensive lesson in trading across international borders where rules are often interpreted in very different ways.

The recent history of these cases can be traced via the News Search box at the head of the page using a suitable keyword, such as antitrust. The unfortunate fact is that with recent cases involving air carriers, car shippers and container lines as well as freight forwarders, the current history of logistics with regard to ethical behaviour is not one to be too proud of.