Price fixing alleged in class action against auto filter makers

Ann Knef Apr. 23, 2008, 9:44am

A class action suit filed today in federal court claims a number of auto parts manufacturers conspired to fix prices for replacement oil, air, fuel and transmission filters.

Manasek Auto Parts, doing business as Undercare Warehouse, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against Champion Laboratories, Cummins Filtration, Inc., The Donaldson Co., Baldwin Filters, Inc., Bosch, Mann + Hummel and ArvinMeritor, Inc.

The suit alleges that a former national sales manager for Champion will testify that the defendants "conspired and agreed to coordinate prices, rig bids and allocate customers from at least January 1, 1999, to the present (the 'Class Period')."

Undercare Warehouse claims its case arises in part from a sworn affidavit executed on March 25 by the former employee of "two of the Defendants named herein," in another lawsuit pending in federal court in East St. Louis.

"[T]his affidavit and additional specific allegations detail Defendants' price-fixing conspiracy," the complaint states.

"Many of the allegations contained herein, particularly those with respect to the specifics of meetings between the Defendants, are based on alleged recorded conversations and the personal knowledge of this former employee, who served as a National Accounts and Division Sales Manager for Defendant Champion."

According to the complaint, defendants artificially inflated prices for filters, thereby causing plaintiffs antitrust injury.

"Defendants' actions constitute per se violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act," the complaint states.

The Sherman Act was the first U.S. government action to limit cartels and monopolies.

The plaintiffs are represented by James J. Rosemergy and Michael J. Flannery of Carey & Danis in St. Louis, Simon B. Paris and Patrick Howard of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky in Philadelphia, Donald L. Perelman and Roberta D. Liebenberg of Fine, Kaplan and Black in Philadelphia, Michael J. Boni of Boni & Zack in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. and Joseph Goldberg of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives in Albuquerque.

The action seeks damages and injunctive relief on behalf of the plaintiff and a nationwide class of direct purchasers of filters.

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