Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. will pay $11.4 million to settle automobile dealers’ claims in multidistrict litigation (MDL) alleging Toyo colluded with automotive manufacturers, marketers and sellers to fix prices for certain rubber parts. Lawyers for the auto dealers and Japanese tire and rubber products company Toyo have filed a motion seeking preliminary approval from the court on the $11.4 million settlement.

The settlement would cover the dealers’ antitrust claims related to anti-vibration rubber parts, which are installed in cars’ suspension systems and engine mounts to reduce engine and road vibration, and to automotive constant-velocity joint boot products, which are used to cover the constant-velocity joints of an automobile to protect them from contaminants.

The proposed settlement classes involve all auto dealers in the U.S. from March 1, 1996, through Sept. 14, 2017, that purchased at least one new automobile containing anti-vibrational rubber parts, or that indirectly purchased one or more anti-vibrational rubber parts as replacement parts.

The settlement agreement also involves all dealers in the U.S. from Jan. 1, 2006, through Sept. 14, 2017, that purchased at least one new automobile containing automotive constant-velocity joint boot products or that indirectly purchased one or more automotive constant-velocity joint boot products as replacement parts.

As with some of the other settlements reached in the MDL, Toyo’s sales will remain in the case for calculating the treble damages claim against any non-settling Defendants, and shall be part of any joint and several liability claims against future Defendants. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating conspiracies in the market for automotive parts since as early as February 2010. The FBI is conducting a federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry.

As a result of the DOJ investigation, Toyo had agreed to plead guilty and pay a $120 million criminal fine for conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition by allocating sales of, to rigging bids for, and to fixing prices of automotive parts sold to Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., and certain of their subsidiaries, affiliates, and suppliers in the U.S. and elsewhere, from as early as March 1996 through at least May 2012. Toyo also agreed to cooperate with the DOJ in its investigation into antitrust violations involving its automotive parts. The instant $11.4 million agreement would cover the auto dealers’ claims against Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd., Toyo Tire North America Manufacturing Inc., Toyo Tire North America OE Sales LLC, and Toyo Automotive Parts (USA) Inc.

The cases are In re: Anti-Vibrational Rubber Parts, (case number 2:13-cv-00802), and In re: Automotive Constant Velocity Joint Boot Products, (case number 2:14-cv-02902), while the MDL is In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation, (case number 2:12-md-02311), all in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Source: Law360.com



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