Auto Parts Antitrust Class Action Expands and Settlements Begin

Posted on: December 3rd, 2014 by Steve Larson
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Glossy Pictogram "Airbag"

Our firm has been working on the Auto Parts Antitrust Class Actions for some time now.  The putative class action lawsuits against various manufacturers of automobile parts were brought by U.S. car buyers and are pending in the Eastern District of Michigan before a district judge that was assigned all the cases by the Judicial Panel on MultiDistrict Litigation.  There currently are separate class actions involving alleged price fixing of over 26 different auto parts.

In the past few months, some of the defendants have begun settling some of the claims, and those settlements are now becoming public.   Recently, TRW Automotive agreed to pay $5.4 million to settle claims that said it conspired with other auto part makers to fix the price of occupant safety systems.  TRW and its TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH unit reached a deal with the end payor plaintiffs in the case in the MDL that deals with systems made up of seat belts, air bags, steering wheels and safety electronic systems. The agreement, which was filed with the court Sept. 17, along with a $76 million agreement with Yazaki Corp. brings the total settlements the consumer plaintiffs have won in the MDL to more than $100 million.  The hearing to approve that settlement was held on Nov. 5.

This case is one of many that have followed in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing criminal probe into price fixing in the auto parts industry.

TRW Deutschland is one of many companies that have plead guilty in the U.S., agreeing to pay a $5.1 million fine to the U.S. Government in 2012 for conspiring to fix the prices of seat belts, airbags and steering wheels sold to two German car makers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The lawyers for the consumers emphasized in their motion for settlement approval that the deal was valuable not only for the financial recovery but for the help they expected to receive from TRW.  “Standing alone, the recovery from TRW is significant,” the motion says. “But the settlement is even more valuable to the EPPs because it also requires TRW to provide early and comprehensive cooperation in the form of … attorney proffers, interviews with and depositions of witnesses, and the production of certain documents (including transactional data), related to the claims asserted in this case.”

The case is entitled In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation, case number 2:12-md-02311, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.