Tuesday, July 28, 2015

K-Line Settles Price Fixing Charges

By Mark Edward Nero

Attorneys representing a group of consumers and auto and truck and equipment dealerships in antitrust claims against more than a dozen international shipping firms have reached a settlement with Tokyo-based Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., known as K-Line.

The settlement was announced during a July 23 hearing before Judge Esther Salas of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark.

The plaintiffs, which include the indirect purchasers of millions of vehicles transported to the United States, claim that K-Line and other maritime carriers have unlawfully conspired to rig bids, fix prices and overcharge for their services.

The lawsuit notes that the market for transporting new vehicles for sale in the US is almost $1 billion annually. Terms of the settlement have not been announced.

“We are delighted to announce the first major settlement in the vehicle carriers case with K-Line,” attorney Warren Burns of Burns Charest LLP, interim co-lead counsel for the end-payor plaintiffs, said July 23. “This is a very significant and substantial first step to assure that American consumers are compensated for the conspiracy to fix the price of international car-shipping services.”

Burns said his firms expects to make the dollar amount public “very soon” after the settlement approval is filed by federal authorities.

The other defendants include among others Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) and Compania Sud Americana de Vapores (CSAV), both of which previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy that is still being investigated by the federal government.

Some maritime company defendants have sought to dismiss the claims by arguing that the 1984 Shipping Act, which regulates ocean shipping companies, preempts state antitrust laws that protect indirect purchasers against price-fixing.

Burns, however, countered with the argument that state antitrust laws complement the Shipping Act, and that Congress in no way intended to bar such state claims.