U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani has approved the $64-million settlement reached by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. that resolves car buyers’ claims in multidistrict litigation (MDL). The company was accused of having a role in a massive conspiracy to rig prices on auto parts. Preliminary approval was granted to the settlement for car buyers whose vehicles included certain parts with prices that were alleged to have been fixed since July 1998. This settlement resolves their claims that Mitsubishi conspired to allocate the supply of auto parts and sell them at noncompetitive prices in the U.S. and elsewhere. Judge Battani appointed Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP, Robins Kaplan LLP and Susman Godfrey LLP as settlement class counsel. In his order, Judge Battani wrote:
The terms of the settlement agreement are hereby preliminarily approved, including the release contained therein, as being fair, reasonable and adequate to the settlement classes, subject to a fairness hearing.
The MDL against manufacturers, marketers and sellers had been split into separate proceedings for different automotive parts. The instant settlement covers cars with certain alternators, starters, ignition coils, fuel injection systems, valve timing control devices, automotive wire harness systems, lights and electronic powered steering assemblies made by Mitsubishi or its related units.
The cases are part of a large MDL that followed the U.S. Department of Justice’s expensive, ongoing investigation into the auto parts industry that has yielded more than $2 billion in fines. I will discuss some of the settlements below:
• In April 2015, Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. agreed to pay $46.7 million to settle claims that it fixed prices on auto parts in the MDL.
• In September, when announcing a $50 million settlement with Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd., lawyers for the end payors said total settlements for the Plaintiffs group had surpassed $200 million.
• In March, a Michigan federal judge signed off on a settlement reached between Mitsubishi, Takata Corp. and a number of other auto companies. Three individual consumers were dismissed from the multidistrict litigation without prejudice. The terms of that agreement were not disclosed.
• Later, a Toyota Camry owner objected to multimillion-dollar settlements that auto parts companies reached with end payors in multidistrict litigation of an alleged price-fixing scheme. It was claimed that the deals invite “minitrials” and fraudulent claims.
• And in early May, end payors urged the court to approve a group of settlements worth $225 million despite objections about whether the definition of the class was sufficiently clear, among other things.
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. Objectors to the settlement are represented by lawyers Olen York and David Dishman. There are two pro se objectors.
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