Dial and Heinz told Manhattan U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley, III last month that consumer product makers had reached a settlement with News Corp. The announcement came just moments before the start of a class action trial over allegations the media giant monopolized the U.S. market for third-party in-store promotions and overcharged them by $674.6 million. A federal jury had been selected to hear the high-dollar civil case, but Judge Pauley wasn’t too happy with the timing of the announcement. He ordered the parties to proceed with opening statements. Judge Pauley told the Plaintiffs’ lawyers that “The jury is ready to go.”
Judge Pauley refused to halt the openings, saying the parties would have to bring the settlement to his attention later in the day. At press time, details of the settlement were not clear. News Corp. has maintained an illegal monopoly over the market for third-party in-store promotion services since about 2004 by striking long-term, exclusive contracts, Plaintiffs including Heinz and Dial contend. They say it’s using its market dominance to charge unfairly high prices. In June, Judge Pauley certified a class of consumer goods companies in the U.S. that directly bought in-store promotions from News Corp. beginning in April 2008. General Mills and a unit of Johnson & Johnson had already settled and were out of the case.
The suit is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
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