Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi Maxell and NEC, all electronic giants, have agreed to pay $50 million to settle litigation by direct purchasers of lithium-ion batteries. It had been claimed that the companies colluded with other electronics manufacturers to fix battery prices for more than a decade. The settlements add to the $19 million deal that Sony Corp. made with the direct buyers to settle the claims last February, bringing the total recovered by the group to nearly $69 million. These new settlements are substantially similar to the Sony agreement.
The multidistrict litigation (MDL) arose from claims that consumers and resellers paid higher prices as a result of a price-fixing conspiracy involving Sony, LG Chem America, Toshiba Corp. and other makers of rechargeable lithium ion batteries. As you may know, these batteries are widely used in laptop computers and other electronic devices. The buyers allege that the conspiracy ran from the beginning of 2000 through May 2011.
The companies have also agreed to settlements with indirect purchasers, including a $19.5 million settlement with Sony. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who is overseeing the MDL, granted final approval last month to the Sony settlement but denied indirect purchasers’ requests for almost $4 million in expenses, because they were unsubstantiated. Judge Rogers said in an order:
No invoices, billing records, or other supporting documents were provided. Given the lack of evidentiary support for the request and the Court’s inability to discern the impact if the recovery of expenses here relative to the ongoing litigation, the Court denies Plaintiffs’ request.
Earlier this year, Hitachi Maxell Ltd. and NEC Corp. agreed to pay $3.45 million and $2.5 million, respectively, to settle the indirect purchasers’ claims. In December, LG Chem Ltd. agreed a $39 million settlement with the IPPs.
The direct purchasers are represented by Saveri & Saveri Inc., Pearson Simon & Warshaw LLP, Berman DeValerio, Zelle LLP, Barrack Rodos & Bacine, Grant & Eisenhofer PA and Polsinelli PC, among others. The indirect buyers are represented by Joseph W. Cotchett, Nancy L. Fineman, Demetrius X. Lambrinos, Joyce Chang and Steven N. Williams of Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP and Jeff D. Friedman, Steve W. Berman and Shana E. Scarlett of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.
The MDL is In re: Lithium-Ion Batteries Antitrust Litigation (case number 4:13-md-02420) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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