Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific has agreed to pay shippers $65 million to settle a private class-action lawsuit alleging price fixing of air cargo transportation between 2000 and 2006, according to Hausfeld LLP, one of the law firms representing the claimants.
Eight years ago, competition authorities in the United States, European Union, Australia, Canada and South Korea raided the offices of airlines to collect evidence of anti-trust violations. More than two dozen airlines were subsequently charged in various countries with conspiracy to fix prices on air cargo shipments. A number of airlines have pleaded guilty and paid more than $1.8 billion in criminal fines in the United States alone.
Cathay Pacific, for example, pleaded guilty and paid $60 million in fines in a U.S. Department of Justice case.
Victims have also sued the airlines to recover losses from the illegal activity, alleging the cartel increased global shipping prices. The class is made up of direct purchasers of air cargo services, most of which are freight forwarders.
Cathay Pacific is the latest airline to back out of the litigation. In December, Korean Air Lines and Singapore Airlines agreed to settlements totaling almost $207.5 million. In all, 23 defendants have settled for more than $758 million.
Any company that was a director purchaser from any defendant airline, whether or not it has settled, can make a claim on the settlement, Hausfeld partner Brent Landau said in a phone interview.
So far there have been three disbursements to class members.
The Eastern District Court of New York must still grant final approval of the Cathay, Korean and Singapore settlements and notice of the settlements has to go out to all members of the class before money can be dispersed.
The court is now considering the plaintiff's motion for class certification to proceed against the remaining defendants, Landau said. That's because each settlement agreement has its own settlement class. The court still needs to approve a class for purposes of trial litigation. The airlines that have settled have agreed that there is a valid class against them, he said.
Still fighting the suit are Air China, Air India, Asiana Airlines, China Air, EVA, Nippon Cargo Airlines and Polar Air Cargo and its parent Atlas Air Worldwide. The case is still in the discovery period during which lawyers on both sides exchange documents and take depositions from those involved.