Daimler AG, Volvo AB and other truckmakers won dismissal of a 867 million-euro ($950 million) lawsuit claiming customers were overcharged in a price-fixing cartel.
The way the plaintiff in the case acquired the claims was invalid so the pooled cases can’t proceed, Presiding Judge Gesa Lutz said when delivering the ruling in Munich on Friday. The action also targeted Volkswagen AG’s MAN unit, Paccar Inc.’s DAF and CNH Industrial NV’s Iveco.
The case was brought by Financialright GmbH on behalf of more than 3,200 companies that say they paid too much for their vehicles because prices were fixed. Lawyers for the truckmakers had asked to dismiss the suit, arguing that buying the claims violated the law.
The ruling is a setback for the purchase model invented to make up for Germany’s lack of of U.S.-style class actions. Financialright is cooperating with BGL, a German association of logistics companies, and Burford Capital, which is financing the litigation. They have also filed a second group case in Munich.
“We made an offer to the justice system and the defendants to handle these claims swiftly and efficiently,” said Jan-Eike Andresen, Financialright’s founder. “We will now consider all options, including bringing the cases individually.”
The court criticized how, under the Financialright model, all claims would be treated the same, regardless of their individual chances. This would allow customers with poorer cases to profit disproportionately from a potential settlement at the expense of holders of better-founded claims.
It also took issue with the litigation being financed by a “foreign” company owned by a listed corporation. As a publicly traded company is under scrutiny by analysts and the press, it may take decisions that are not motivated by the interest of the claimants.
“Since the plaintiff is dependent on litigation funding, there’s a concrete risk that undue criteria will influence on how the case is led which aren’t in the interest of the customers,” the court wrote.
The case is: LG Muenchen, 37 O 18934/17.
By Karin Matussek and Tim Loh