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From Antitrust Law Daily, April 18, 2016

Settlement in optical disk drive price fixing suit receives final approval

By Linda O’Brien, J.D., LL.M.

In multidistrict litigation by direct purchasers against electronics manufacturers for an alleged conspiracy to rig bids and fix prices of optical disk drives, the federal district court in San Francisco has granted final approval to a $37 million settlement with seven defendant corporations, including BenQ Corp., Pioneer Electronics, Sony, and Samsung (In re Optical Disk Drive Antitrust Litigation, April 14, 2016, Seeborg, R.).

Direct purchasers of electronic products filed class action complaints against Hitachi, LG, Panasonic, NEC Corporation, and other electronic product manufacturers, alleging that the manufacturers engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids and fix prices for optical disk drives (ODDs) that are included in various electronic devices. The plaintiffs alleged that the price fixing conspiracy began in January 2004 and continued until January 2010, and was carried out through agreements to fix prices and restrict output by bid rigging, market allocation, and the use of trade associations.

The court previously approved settlements of $26 million with Hitachi and LG Electronics, $5.75 million with Panasonic, and $6 million with NEC Corporation. In November 2015, the plaintiffs sought preliminary approval of settlements with defendants BenQ Corp., Pioneer Electronics, Koninklijke Philips Electronics, Quanta Storage, Sony, TEAC Corp., and Samsung. According to the plaintiffs’ motion, the defendants agreed to pay a combined total of $37 million into separate escrow accounts for the benefit of class members. The settlements also require the defendants to cooperate in the prosecution of the case against non-settling defendant by producing trial witnesses and additional discovery.

In December 2015, the court certified for settlement a class defined as all individuals and entities that, during the period from January 1, 2004 until at least January 1, 2010, purchased one or more optical disk drives in the United States directly from the defendants.

The prerequisites under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 were met, according to the court. There were hundreds of geographically dispersed class members, making joinder of all members impracticable; there were questions of law and fact common to the class, which predominated over individual issues; the claims or defenses of the class plaintiffs were typical of the claims or defenses of the class; the plaintiffs would fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class and retained experienced counsel who would adequately represent the class; and a class action was superior to individual actions.

The court also granted class counsels’ requested for attorney fees of $11 million, which was 30 percent of the settlement fund. The award was determined to be fair and reasonable under the percentage-of-the-recovery method, based on the results obtained by class counsel and the risks and complexity of the case. The range of awards in similar cases justified the award. Litigation expenses of $320,950 also were awarded. The court determined that the expenses were reasonably incurred in the ordinary course of prosecuting the case and were necessary given the nature and scope of the case.

The case is No. 3:10-cv-02143-RS.

Attorneys: Dianne M. Nast (Nastlaw LLC) for CMP Consulting Services, Inc., KI, Inc. and Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. John F. Cove, Jr. (Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP) and Ian T. Simmons (O'Melveny & Myers LLP) for Sony Corp. and Sony Optiarc, Inc. Ameri Rose Klafeta (Eimer Stahl LLP) and Christopher B. Hockett (Davis Polk & Wardwell) for LG Electronics, Inc.

Companies: BenQ Corp; Pioneer Electronics Inc.; Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.; Quanta Storage Inc.; Sony Corp.; TEAC Corp.; Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

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