Five electronics makers have agreed to pay $528 million to settle class action claims that the companies fixed cathode ray tube prices. The Plaintiffs — customers who indirectly purchased CRTs — have requested a California federal court to approve five settlements with Philips Electronics North America Corp., Panasonic Corp., Samsung SDI Co. Ltd., Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. totaling $528 million in the long-running antitrust multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Samsung SDI and Philips agreed to the two largest settlements with the indirect purchasers, for $225 million and $175 million, respectively. Panasonic will pay $70 million, Toshiba $30 million and Hitachi $28 million. Combined with $35 million the indirect purchasers have already received by way of earlier settlements with Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. and LG Electronics Inc., the latest settlements will bring the indirect purchasers’ total recovery to $563 million. The settlements came as the two sides were preparing for a trial that was originally set to begin in March, with the parties reaching agreements starting in late January and concluding with the Samsung settlement in April.

The settlements cover both a nationwide class and buyers from 21 states who purchased products containing CRTs, such as televisions and computer monitors. The nationwide class does not, however, include residents of Illinois, Oregon and Washington. That’s because the attorneys general in those states are suing to recover separately on behalf of their citizens. In addition to the cash settlements, all of the Defendants have agreed to cooperate with the Plaintiffs as they continue to pursue the case.

Reportedly, the $563 million total for indirect purchasers is second only to the settlements in similar price-fixing litigation against liquid crystal display panel makers. In that litigation, however, most of the Defendants pled guilty, whereas in the CRT case, the U.S. Department of Justice only fined one company $32 million in a plea deal.

The MDL, consolidated in 2008, also included a group of direct purchasers and a large number of suits brought by individual retailers seeking damages from the electronics companies. The Plaintiffs claimed the companies had divided up the market and cut down on supply to boost prices of CRTs used in TVs and computer monitors from early 1995 through late 2007. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Source: Law360.com

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