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Class Certification Granted in Price Fixing Case Against Major US Railroads
On Thursday, June 21, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia certified a class of direct purchasers of rail freight transportation services who collectively seek damages for a price-fixing conspiracy allegedly perpetrated by defendants BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Inc., Norfolk Southern Railway Company, and Union Pacific Railroad Company—the largest rail freight carriers in the United States.
Co-lead Class Counsel Michael Hausfeld (Chairman, Hausfeld LLP) explained: “This opinion represents the culmination of a lengthy and careful analysis of one of the most monumental records on class certification ever compiled in the history of American antitrust jurisprudence in which the railroads jointly fixed prices, overcharged their customers, and received a significant financial windfall.”
The plaintiffs—shippers nationwide—allege that that the four dominant railroads unlawfully conspired to fix, raise, maintain, or stabilize prices of rail freight transportation services sold in the United States through the use of coordinated rail fuel surcharges, which did not reflect their fuel costs but rather served as independent profit centers. In a short written order the Honorable Paul L. Friedman certified a class of:
“All entities or persons that at any time from July 1, 2003 until December 31, 2008 (the “Class Period”) purchased rate-unregulated rail freight transportation services directly from one or more of the Defendants, as to which Defendants assessed a stand-alone rail freight fuel surcharge applied as a percentage of the base rate for the freight transport (or where some or all of the fuel surcharge was included in the base rate through a method referred to as “rebasing”) (“Fuel Surcharge”).”
The Court issued an accompanying opinion under seal, noting its intention to issue a public version in the near future.
Practice Areas: Antitrust / Competition