Automotive supplier Denso Corporation, accused of conspiring to fix the prices of certain auto parts, recently succeeded in dismissing the claims of various plaintiffs involved in the multidistrict litigation.
Among the issues in question in the antitrust cases are Denso’s activities in setting prices for motor generators and inverters installed in electric and hybrid electric vehicles. As reported in Law360 (subscription required), Judge Marianne Battani of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan entered orders dismissing the lawsuits of 48 “end-payor” plaintiffs, finding that the cars purchased by those plaintiffs did not contain either component.
This latest development has no impact on the other claims or parties involved in the litigation, which stems from a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into alleged pricing-fixing practices by Denso and other auto parts manufacturers. In addition to the two Denso components, the consolidated lawsuits involve occupant safety restraints and automotive wire harnesses.
To date, auto suppliers targeted by the investigation have paid in excess of $2 billion in fines:
- In September 2014, Yazaki Corporation agreed to a $76 million settlement to resolve price-fixing claims centered on its wire harnesses, instrument panel clusters, and fuel senders.
- In September 2014, TRW Automotive settled claims over occupant safety systems, agreeing to pay $5.4 million.
- In March 2012, Denso itself pled guilty to charges of a price-fixing conspiracy involving heater control panels and electronic control units, and was ordered to pay a $78 million criminal fine. Additionally, various Denso executives have pled guilty for their participation in the conspiracies.
The collection of lawsuits, formally known as In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation, continues to proceed, and Sommers Schwartz is among the law firms representing the plaintiffs.