Japanese ball bearings maker Minebea Mitsumi Inc. will pay about $9.8 million to settle with a class of direct purchasers of small-sized bearings in a deal related to the massive auto parts antitrust multidistrict litigation, according to papers filed Friday in Michigan federal court.
A group of buyers had in an earlier suit accused NSK Ltd., another bearings maker, of colluding with the competition to fix prices on the parts, bearings with an outer diameter of 30 millimeters or less, used in a multitude of automotive functions, court records show. Minebea, an unnamed defendant in that suit, negotiated with the direct purchasers to strike Friday’s deal, according to filings in the case.
The settlement, a $9.75 million arrangement the purchasers called an “icebreaker” for the other small bearings defendants, would cover any individual or entity that bought small bearings in the U.S. directly from Minebea or its American affiliates from Jan. 1, 2003, to Feb. 15, 2017, according to the proposed deal.
“The settlement with Minebea is the result of these extensive good-faith negotiations, after factual investigation and legal analysis by experienced counsel, and is based upon the attorneys’ full understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the case and their respective positions,” the direct purchasers wrote in the document. “Plaintiff believes that the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate to the settlement class.”
The settlement doesn’t affect the claims of indirect purchasers, and doesn’t impact direct purchaser claims against other companies, according to the brief.
The direct purchasers had filed suit against NSK in November 2015, court records show. To split Minebea off of that full small bearings case that names NSK, the purchasers on Friday filed a new complaint against the company and shortly thereafter the proposed deal, court records show.
The MDL, in the Eastern District of Michigan, followed the U.S. Department of Justice’s own ongoing investigation into the auto parts industry that has already yielded more than $2 billion in fines. The MDL has been split into separate proceedings for different automotive parts.
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