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From Antitrust Law Daily, September 24, 2014

Price fixing claims against bearings maker proceed in U.S. auto parts antitrust litigation

By Linda O’Brien, J.D., LL.M.

In consolidated antitrust actions by direct purchasers, automobile dealers, and end-payors against manufacturers of automotive parts, the plaintiffs plausibly pleaded that bearings manufacturer Schaeffler Group USA directly participated in the alleged conspiracy to fix prices of bearings sold in the United States, the federal district court in Detroit has decided. Thus, the defendant’s motion to dismiss was denied (In re Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation (Bearings), September 23, 2014, Battani, M.).

Automobile manufacturers (direct purchaser plaintiffs or DPPs), automobile dealers (ADPs), and consumers who purchased and leased of vehicles (end-payor plaintiffs or EPPs), filed a series of class actions alleging a conspiracy to fix prices automotive parts, including bearings, by Schaeffler Group USA, German holding company Schaeffler AG, and other companies that manufactured and sold the automotive parts. Schaeffler AG’s motion to dismiss the complaints for lack of personal jurisdiction was granted in July 2014. Schaeffler Group USA subsequently moved for dismissal for failure to state a claim.

The court determined that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that Schaeffler USA directly participated in fixing the prices of bearings that were purchased in the United States. The plaintiffs alleged the existence of a global conspiracy and claimed that the global bearings market was conducive to anticompetitive conduct during the class period. The plaintiffs also alleged that Schaeffler USA directly participated in secret meetings to further the objectives of the conspiracy.

The plaintiffs further alleged that Schaeffler USA conspired with other bearings manufacturers that pleaded guilty to price fixing bearings in investigations by regulatory agencies in the United States and foreign countries. Viewing the allegations as a whole, the court concluded that it was plausible that Schaeffler USA directly participated in the alleged conspiracy and the plaintiffs met their pleading burden at the current state of the litigation.

The case is No. 2:12-cv-00500.

Attorneys: Adam T. Schnatz (The Miller Law Firm) and Hollis Salzman (Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi L.L.P) for the plaintiffs. Eric J. Mahr (Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP) for Schaeffler AG and Schaeffler Group USA.

Companies: Schaeffler AG; Schaeffler Group USA

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust MichiganNews

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