A Michigan federal judge has given final approval to a $225 million settlement that will resolve claims by purchasers of auto parts in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in which a number of companies were accused of having a role in a conspiracy to rig prices on parts. Nine companies were involved in the approved agreement, which will settle allegations from classes of end payors that purchased a new vehicle in the U.S. over the last decade that included one or more of 19 component parts manufactured or sold by the companies. U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani has signed off on the settlement. The settling Defendants include Nippon Seiki Co. Ltd., Lear Corp., Autoliv Inc., Panasonic Corp., TRW Automobile Holdings Corp., Yazaki Corp., Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd., Fujikura Ltd. and Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd., according to the order.
The end payors’ lawyers represent nearly 60 class representatives pursuing claims under federal law and the laws of 30 states and the District of Columbia. Judge Battani said in her order:
Given the difficulty and protracted nature of antitrust cases, the court finds that any final adjudicated recovery for the [end payors] would almost certainly be many years away.
The cases are part of a large MDL that followed the U.S. Department of Justice’s start-up of an investigation into the auto parts industry that has resulted more than $2 billion in fines. The government alleges that the manufacturers, marketers and sellers of the parts conspired to raise prices they charged automakers for the parts. The MDL had been split into separate proceedings for different parts. The agreement approved last month by Judge Battani covered wire harness systems, instrument panel clusters, alternators, starters and other parts.
In early June, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. received early approval by Judge Battani of a $64 million settlement to resolve claims with the end payors. That settlement covered cars with certain alternators, starters, ignition coils, fuel injection systems, valve timing control devices, automotive wire harness systems, lights and electronic power steering assemblies made by Mitsubishi or its related units. There have also been other settlements of note.
The end payor Plaintiffs are represented by Steven N. Williams, Adam J. Zapala and Elizabeth Tran of Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP, Hollis Salzman, Bernard Persky and William V. Reiss of Robins Kaplan LLP, and Marc M. Seltzer, Steven G. Sklaver, Terrell W. Oxford and Omar Ochoa of Susman Godfrey LLP. The MDL is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
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