Companies Agree to Pay $67M to Settle Price-Fixing Claim

(Daily Journal)  Hitachi Chemical Co. agreed to settle its part of a massive antitrust case involving the global capacitor market. U.S. District Judge James Donato indicated at a hearing Thursday that he would approve the agreement, which calls for the technology conglomerate to pay $63 million to a class of direct purchasers.

Another company, Soshin Electric Co. Ltd., agreed to pay just under $4 million. Both companies also agreed to cooperate with their plaintiffs against the remaining defendants accused of price fixing. Soshin also agreed to allow one of its former employees to testify at trial. In Re Capacitors Antitrust Litigation, 14-CV3264 (N.D. Cal., filed July 18, 2014).

The case has already made it through two summary judgment motions and seven of the original 22 corporate defendants have now settled the claims against them. The first round of settlements took place in 2016, netting more than $32 million for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs allege that the scheme began in January 2002, raising or fixing the prices of aluminum, tantalum and film capacitors. The Department of Justice is leading a criminal case against many of the same defendants.

Capacitors are electronic components used in a wide variety of products, from computers to cars.

Hitachi pleaded guilty to violations of the Sherman Act in June 2016, agreeing to pay a criminal fine of $3.8 million. At the time, the company reported to the U.S. Department of Justice that its capacitor sales to the U.S. totaled $16.5 million.

The plaintiffs indicated in the settlement document that they intend to request nearly $17 million in attorney’s fees and just under $7 million in expenses. Those would come out of the settlement fund, with the fees accounting for 25 percent of the fund.

Joseph R. Saveri, the San Francisco antitrust litigator who represents the plaintiffs, wrote in the settlement proposal that the agreement was well within the realm of reasonableness for similar deals.

“Damages in a price-fixing antitrust conspiracy case generally are based on the amount of the overcharge resulting from anticompetitive activity and are usually measured as a percentage of total sales,” he wrote. “The percentage recovered from the Settling Defendants far exceeds the percentage recovered in many other antitrust class action settlements.”

Hitachi was represented by a team from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC.

(Reporting by Joshua Sebold)