K-Line Settles Car Carrier Price-Fixing Lawsuit

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Japan’s Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., more commonly known as K-Line, has agreed to a settlement in an alleged car carrier price-fixing scheme involving more than a dozen international shipping companies, marking the first major settlement in the scandal.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include consumers and auto and truck and equipment dealerships, claim that Tokyo-based K-Line and other carriers unlawfully conspired to rig bids, fix prices and overcharge for the transportation of vehicles to the United States.

“We are delighted to announce the first major settlement in the vehicle carriers case with K-Line,” said Dallas attorney Warren T. Burns of Burns Charest LLP, interim co-lead counsel for the end-payor plaintiffs. “This is a very significant and substantial first step to assure that American consumers are compensated for the conspiracy to fix the price of international car-shipping services. We expect to make the dollar amount public very soon as we file for preliminary approval of the class settlement.”

The settlement with K-Line was announced today, during a hearing before Judge Esther Salas of the U. S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark. The court also heard arguments from other maritime company defendants seeking to dismiss the claims by arguing that the 1984 Shipping Act, which regulates ocean shipping companies, preempts state antitrust laws that protect indirect purchasers against price-fixing.

Burns countered with the argument that state antitrust laws complement the Shipping Act, and that Congress in no way intended to bar such state claims.

The other defendants include, among others, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) and Compania Sud Americana de Vapores (CSAV), both of which previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy that is still being investigated by the federal government.

The case is In Re: Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigation, No. 13-cv-3306 (MDL No. 2471).