$232M Capacitor Price-Fixing Deal Gets First Nod

(Law360) A proposed $232 million deal between AVX, Panasonic and other electronic component manufacturers and a class of direct capacitor buyers has cleared the first hurdle in California federal court toward resolving price-fixing allegations.

U.S. District Judge James Donato granted preliminary approval of the settlement agreement and instructed the class — consisting of those who purchased capacitors directly from any of the defendants or their subsidiaries between January 2002 and December 2013 — to file their motion for final approval and attorney fees by July 24, according to an order on Friday.

A final approval hearing is set for Sept. 17.

Under the deal, AVX Corp. has agreed to shell out $65 million to exit the antitrust litigation, Elna Co. Ltd. would pay $25 million, and Holy Stone would pay $28 million.

Deals were also reached with electronics makers Kemet for $62 million, Panasonic Corp. for $45 million, Shinyei for $2.9 million, Shizuki for $1 million, and Taitsu for $3.1 million.

Preliminary approval of the settlement came more than a month after a jury trial in the case against the two remaining Defendants — Nippon Chemi-Con Corp. and Matsuo Electric Co. — ended with a mistrial due to courtroom operational disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Opening statements began in March, but trial proceedings were later suspended until June 4, when the district court ultimately released the jury and said a retrial will resume in October or November.

The broader litigation in the Northern District of California dates back to to July 2014, when Chip-Tech Ltd. filed the first suit in the consolidated case, which has resulted in some settlements.

In April 2018, the indirect purchasers reached a $20 million deal with several manufacturers. Later that year, they reached a $21.5 million agreement with Nichicon Corp. Last November, Kemet announced a $62 million deal.

Groups of direct and indirect purchasers have accused more than a dozen overseas manufacturers of colluding to fix prices for aluminum, tantalum, and film capacitors over a decade. Electrolytic capacitors are fundamental in the operation of all electrical circuit boards, including in computers, DVD players, car engines, and airbag systems. The alleged price-fixing scheme began from as early as 2002 until 2013, the buyers claim.

Joseph Saveri, an attorney for the direct purchaser class, told Law360 in a statement Tuesday that each of the deals, if approved, will provide substantial relief to his clients who are “victims of the cartel.”

“They represent years of work prosecuting the cases and the product of hard-fought litigation and extensive negotiation,” Saveri said. “Many were reached at the eve of trial, or during the trial. The settlement approval process is now underway, and we look forward to presenting the settlements for final approval to the court in September. We are looking forward to a trial against the remaining defendants by the end of 2020.”

Counsel for the manufacturers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The MDL is In re: Capacitors Antitrust Litigation, case number 3:17-md-02801, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

(Reporting by Khorri Atkinson. Additional reporting by Anne Cullen. Editing by Nicole Bleier.)