HP Seeks Damages for Price-Fixing

     HOUSTON (CN) - In two federal antitrust complaints, Hewlett-Packard claims Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, Panasonic and others fixed prices for optical disc drives for years, to HP's cost.
     The self-proclaimed "largest personal computer company in the world," HP claims it overpaid for disc drives from January 2004 to January 2010 due to the price-fixing conspiracy among electronics heavyweights and their affiliates.
     Hewlett-Packard filed two nearly identical 65-page lawsuits this week, each one against a separate, long list of alleged conspirators.
     In its complaint against lead defendant Toshiba, HP claims the scheme unraveled in November 2011, when Hitachi-LG Data Storage Inc., (HLDS) a joint venture of Hitachi and LG Electronics, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges.
     "In its plea agreement, HLDS, Inc. admitted that between approximately November 2005 and approximately March 2009, HLDS, Inc. employees engaged in bid-rigging and price-fixing in the ODD industry, a primary purpose of which was to 'rig ODD procurement events hosted by HP,'" the complaint states.
     HLDS agreed in its plea deal to pay $21.1 million in criminal fines, HP says.
     The defendants shipped hundreds of millions of optical disc drives, generating billions of dollars in revenue. From 2004 to 2008 alone "worldwide ODD shipments generated more than $45 billion in revenues," HP claims, citing a study by International Data Corp.
     HP claims the defendants made out like bandits, as they controlled 90 percent of the market for optical disc drives during this time.
     The defendants face multiple lawsuits over the price-fixing allegations.
     A federal judge in Northern California refused to dismiss consolidated antitrust complaints against optical disc drive makers in April 2012.
     In that litigation, HP says, some of the same defendants "have already produced more than 4 million documents that contain information regarding defendants' and their co-conspirators' confidential information exchanges and agreements."
     HP seeks treble damages for violations of the Sherman Act, the California Cartwright Act and the California Unfair Competition Law.
     Defendants in the Toshiba lawsuit include Samsung, Sony, NEC Corp., Panasonic, TEAC, Quanta Storage and the companies' affiliates.
     Defendants in the other lawsuit include LG Electronics, Hitachi-LG Data Storage Inc., Koninklijke Philips, Lite-On IT Corporation of Taiwan, BenQ Corp., Philips BenQ Digital Storage, Pioneer, Sharp, and the companies' affiliates.
     Lead counsel in both lawsuits is Alistair Dawson with Beck Redden.