Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. will pay $46.7 million to settle allegations in nine Michigan federal suits that it fixed prices on alternators, starters and other auto parts. Hitachi is the latest company to settle claims in the multidistrict litigation (MDL). The proposed settlement would resolve end-payor Plaintiffs’ claims against Hitachi Automotive Systems, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Inc. and Hitachi Ltd., according to a motion for preliminary approval filed with the court by the Plaintiffs. A lawyer for auto-dealer Plaintiffs told Law360 that they have a separate settlement with the Hitachi entities.
The cases are part of an MDL that followed the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ongoing investigation into the auto parts industry that has already yielded more than $2 billion in fines. The MDL — known as In Re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation — has been split into separate proceedings for different automotive parts. The parts at issue in the instant proceedings also include ignition coils, motor generators, inverters, fuel injection systems, valve timing control devices, air flow meters and electronic throttle bodies. The end payors and Hitachi Automotive Systems — which previously agreed to pay a $195 million criminal fine to the DOJ — agreed to the settlement in late march.
The filing came after the auto dealers told the court that Panasonic Corp. would pay $5.4 million to settle allegations against them in three suits in the MDL. The auto dealers had reached a separate $17.1 million settlement to resolve a related putative class action. Meanwhile, the Justice Department said auto parts supplier Robert Bosch GmbH had agreed to plead guilty and pay a $57.8 million criminal fine for conspiring to fix prices for spark plugs and other auto parts.
The MDL arose from alleged conspiracies among the auto industry’s biggest manufacturers, marketers and sellers of auto parts to fix the prices, rig bids and allocate the market and customers in the U.S. for the products. The end-payor Plaintiffs and the classes they seek to represent are consumers and companies who indirectly bought or leased new vehicles containing one or more of the auto parts at issue in the instant suits.
The end payors said that their settlement also covers automotive sensors, transmission control units and engine control units, which are encompassed by Hitachi Automotive Systems’ plea deal with the government. The settlement agreement didn’t include an order for restitution. It was stated on the end payors’ filing that it was because of the potential for recovery through civil causes of action. The end payors said in their motion for preliminary approval that the instant settlement also requires the Hitachi entities to provide attorney proffers, witness depositions, and transactional data and other documents that will strengthen their claims against non-settling Defendants.
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