logo

Autoliv agrees to pay plaintiffs $65 million in price-fixing lawsuit

By: Chad Halcom
CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS

June 2, 2014

Stockholm-based Autoliv Inc. has agreed to pay $65 million to various groups of plaintiffs in the massive Detroit civil lawsuit over global automotive supplier price-fixing, making it the fourth company to do so in the past year.

Autoliv announced June 2 three separate settlement agreements in the multi-district civil litigation before U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani, although it has yet to be approved in court.

Those agreements call for Autoliv to pay $40 million to the lawsuit’s “direct purchasers,” or other auto companies that bought the parts at colluded prices, plus $19 million to a separate class of car consumer plaintiffs and $6 million to the automotive dealerships that are part of the court case.

Autoliv admits no liability and said in a statement today it was settling the case “for the purpose of avoiding the uncertainty, risk, expense and distraction of further class action litigation…”

The settlement comes two years after Autoliv agreed to pay a $14.5 million criminal fine and cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to restrain trade.

The direct purchaser part of the payout could be reduced later to as low as $24 million, depending on the number and portion of sales of any purchasers who opt out of the settlement. Autoliv can void any portion of the deal if the opt-outs in any class exceed predetermined thresholds.

Autoliv expects to take a $65 million charge to its second-quarter 2014 results based on the settlements, if they are approved.

The company makes airbags, seat belts and a variety of plastic components that go into those safety systems.

The multi-district civil case in Detroit is separate from a series of criminal prosecutions by Justice with fines totaling about $2.3 billion against 27 companies, although both have mapped out an alleged conspiracy to bolster the prices of various auto components between 2000 and early 2011.

Last week, Southfield-based Lear Corp. announced it was asking a bankruptcy court judge in New York to sign off on a settlement deal in the same case, valued around $9 million. Lear expects to pay out $8.75 million in that case to all three plaintiff classes, while Kyungshin-Lear Sales and Engineering LLC will pay another $300,000 to the consumer and auto dealer classes.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in New York approved a distribution of assets in reserve from the Lear bankruptcy to pay for that settlement last week, although it also has yet to be approved in the Detroit court.

Nagaoka, Japan-based Nippon Seiki Co. Ltd., which houses its NS International Ltd. headquarters in Troy, also agreed late last year to a combined $6 million payout to the dealerships and consumer plaintiffs.

Nippon Seiki agreed to pay $4.56 million to the consumer class and $1.44 million to the dealer plaintiffs, to resolve claims on behalf of itself, NS International and Ohio-based New Sabina Industries Inc.

The Autoliv deal, if approved along with Lear in Detroit, will bring the total civil payouts to just under $80 million.