A Michigan federal judge has granted final approval to a number of settlement agreements that will see car parts manufacturers pay about $125 million in total to settle price-fixing allegations by dealerships. U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani, who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation, said in her order that the agreements, reached in litigation covering various individual auto parts, were fair, adequate and reasonable. Judge Battani said:
The settlements reflect both the strengths of the auto dealers’ claims and the risk that the settling defendants may prevail on some or all of their defenses.
Among the companies involved in the agreements are Denso Corp., Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. and NSK Ltd. The settlements cover litigation over car parts such as air conditioning systems, wire harnesses and heater control panels. The cases are part of an MDL that followed the U.S. Department of Justice’s launch of an ongoing investigation into the auto parts industry.
The government alleges that the manufacturers, marketers and sellers of the parts conspired to raise prices they charged automakers. So far, the investigation has led to approximately $2.4 billion in criminal fines paid to the U.S. Department of Justice. The price-fixing affected dozens of products that were sold to some of the largest automobile manufacturers in the U.S., including General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, according to the government.
A number of direct purchasers, dealerships and vehicle buyers subsequently brought lawsuits against companies named in the investigation. The lawsuits accuse the companies of forcing the plaintiffs to pay more for the automotive products than they would have paid if the illegal conduct did not occur. This summer, Judge Battani granted final approval to $225 million in settlements between auto parts end payors and companies including Nippon Seiki Co. Ltd., Panasonic Corp., Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. and Sumitomo.
In September, the judge gave her initial approval to agreements that will see Aisin Seiki Co., Schaeffler Group USA Inc. and Valeo Inc., among others, pay some $44 million to settle price-fixing allegations by end payors.
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