Wal-Mart, Walgreen, Unilever, Del Monte and Kraft are among an expanded list of shippers that have asked to be excluded from a $52.25 million class-action settlement for price-fixing that carriers in the U.S. mainland-Puerto Rico trade offered.
An updated list filed in U.S. District Court in San Juan shows that 1,470 shippers, mostly individual claimants, have agreed to share in the cash settlement by Horizon Lines, Sea Star Line and Crowley Maritime or accept a two-year rate freeze from the lines. Some 230 shipper entities, many of which are corporate siblings, opted out of the deal.
The carriers agreed to the settlement in an effort to end civil antitrust lawsuits filed after a federal criminal investigation into price-fixing between 2002 and 2008. The criminal investigation has produced guilty pleas from five former carrier officials – three from Horizon, two from Sea Star – for antitrust violations or concealing evidence.
Jones Act price-fixing case news in JOC:
Puerto Rico Shippers Unsettled, Unmoved.
Horizon agreed to pay $20 million, Sea Star $18.5 million and Crowley $13.75 million to settle the class-action suit. A fourth Puerto Rico carrier, Trailer Bridge, was dropped from the case. The carriers’ legal fees have totaled tens of millions of dollars, including more than $26 million for Horizon alone.
Shippers opting out of the agreement may pursue their own antitrust cases against the lines. The carriers can withdraw their settlement offer if too many shippers don’t accept the deal. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel R. Dominguez delayed final approval of the agreement after a Nov. 18 hearing in which some shippers objected to the proposed $25 million fee for the class-action plantiffs’ attorneys.
An earlier list of shippers opting out of the deal included such entities as Caribbean Shipping Services, Home Depot, Kimberly Clark, Baxter Healthcare, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Nestle, Payless Shoesource, Procter & Gamble, Sears, RC and Nissan North America.
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