Bridgestone has agreed to pay $29.6 million to settle price-fixing claims in multidistrict litigation (MDL) contending that the company colluded with other companies to rig the market for certain rubber vehicle components. A proposed settlement was filed in a Michigan federal court last month. Bridgestone Corp. becomes the latest company to reach a settlement with a proposed class of end-payor Plaintiffs who had bought vehicles with the anti-vibration rubber parts at issue or purchased them as replacement pieces. In addition to the $29.6 million settlement, Bridgestone says it will provide extensive discovery efforts to help end-payor Plaintiffs thoroughly prosecute companies that the Plaintiffs do not reach a settlement with or companies whose settlements are not approved. To aid in discovery under the proposed settlement agreement, Bridgestone will do the following:
- It will identify all current and former employees that were interviewed in any capacity during the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation that underpins the case;
- It will identify vehicles that contain the parts and were sold during the time frame at issue;
- It will provide all transactional data relating to Bridgestone’s sale of the parts, provide documents not already turned over that were given to the government during its investigation; and
- It will make the company’s lawyers available for two additional meetings.
According to the DOJ investigation, the period of alleged violations began March 1, 1996, and runs through the period of the investigation. The case is part of an MDL filed in the aftermath of the DOJ’s antitrust investigation into price-fixing and bid-rigging in the auto parts industry, a probe that was launched in 2011 in conjunction with Japanese and European authorities. In June 2016, a Michigan federal judge approved a $225 million settlement for claims against Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. and eight other companies. In September 2016, four more companies reached settlements totaling $44 million.
The MDL is In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation (case number 2:13-cv-00803) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.