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Daimler, Volvo, VW, Others Face Nearly $1 Billion in Claims in Cartel Suit

Oct. 24, 2019
The case alleges the truckmakers conspired to fix prices for their trucks.

Daimler AG, Volvo AB and other truckmakers should be ordered to pay 867 million euro ($965 million) over a price-fixing cartel, according to lawyers in Germany for companies that were overcharged.

The case was brought by Financialright GmbH on behalf of more than 3,200 companies that say they paid too much for their trucks because prices were fixed. Lawyers for the truckmakers argued that the suit should be dismissed because of the way Financialright acquired the claims. After two hours of arguments, the Munich court scheduled a ruling for Jan. 24.

Financialright’s case also targets Volkswagen AG’s MAN unit, Paccar Inc.’s DAF and CNH Industrial NV’S Iveco. The suit was structured to make up for the lack of U.S.-style class actions in Germany. Financialright is cooperating with BGL, a German association of logistics companies, and Burford Capital, which is financing the litigation.

The plaintiff is relying on findings by the European Union, which targeted the truckmakers in an antitrust probe. The EU investigation revealed they fixed prices of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles over 14 years and led to large fines in 2016 and 2017. Since then, a number of big customers have sued the manufacturers for compensation in various EU countries.

Volvo, Daimler, VW’s MAN and Scania divisions, Paccar’s DAF and CNH Industrial’s Iveco are facing price-fixing claims across Europe that could amount to as much as $25 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence litigation analyst Aitor Ortiz.

Daimler, already facing a “considerable” number of damage claims, expects to see more and will take necessary steps to defend itself, the company said in an upbeat quarterly earnings report Thursday.

Decisions are expected next year in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, while the U.K.’s Competition Appeal Tribunal -- which is holding hearings in December on whether to establish two class-action cases for about $7 billion in claims each -- could issue its first ruling in the first half of 2021, Ortiz said in a note.

The Munich suit, covering 85,000 trucks and seeking 603 million euros in damages plus 264 million euros in interest, isn’t the only one Financialright has put together. A second one, covering 3,817 companies and seeking 417 million euros plus 124 million euros in interest, has already been filed, according to Martin Bulheller, a spokesman for BGL. By now, companies from 26 countries have joined and a third lawsuit is being prepared, he said.

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