Companies settle to avoid litigation costs
Regarding its settlement of the federal class action, DuPont said in a statement that it is "committed to complying with the law. In that vein, DuPont has settled... alleged antitrust violations in the refinish industry. DuPont strongly denies the allegations... and is confident it could prevail in trial. This belief is reinforced by the earlier Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation [on price fixing] which resulted in no findings or charges." DuPont said it made the settlement as a business decision to avoid the high cost of continuing the litigation.
BASF, in a similar statement, also referred to the DOJ investigation as proof that it could have won at trial but elected to put the expensive litigation behind it.
Included in the settlement are provisions that the two settling defendants will cooperate with plaintiffs by providing data about their refinishing sales from 1990 - 2002 and allowing a limited number of current and former employees to be interviewed and deposed; in other words, they have agreed as part of their settlement to cooperate with plaintiffs as the case against PPG and Sherwin Williams goes forward. The complete agreement is available online at www.autopaintlitigation.com.
The federal suits were all filed after a story appeared in the Wall Street Journal in June 2001 stating that the DOJ was investigating allegations of price-fixing in the automotive refinish business. There were allegations that the paint companies held a secret meeting in Europe at which they exchanged pricing information for U.S. operations, an allegation which all defendants vigorously deny. In the Spring of 2003 the Justice Department closed that investigation without bringing any charges.