Airline Price-Fixing Settlement Approved

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge approved a $9 million award to plaintiffs in a $39 million settlement of an antitrust class action accusing eight airlines of conspiring to fix prices on trans-Pacific flights.
     The $9 million awarded to the plaintiff passengers was roughly 30 percent of the defendant airlines’ $39 million settlement fund, according to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer’s May 26 order.
     Of that, $20 million went to attorneys’ fees and expenses, including an anticipated $3 million in anticipated expenses for non-settling defendants. Each of the 15 class representative was awarded $7,500.
     The plaintiffs claimed the airlines imposed air fare hikes and fuel surcharge increases that “were in substantial lockstep both in their timing and amount.”
     The settling airlines are Air France, Cathay Pacific Airways, Japan Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Vietnam Airlines.
     Breyer wrote that the distribution of the settlement money was because “this was not a run-of-the-mill class action that settled relatively early; it was a heavily litigated, complicated case that was filed in 2007.”
     He rejected objections that the settlement inappropriately treats all class members the same despite difference in the value of their claims, finding the settlement as a whole “substantial and fair.” He also dismissed objections to the settlement’s $3 million “future litigation fund,” since there is “no reason to believe that plaintiffs would misuse the funds.”
     Breyer said that the notice provided to class members was adequate though it did not include direct notice to individual members, which he said is not mandated by due process.
     Neither side could be reached for comment Thursday.
     The plaintiffs were represented by Eric Buescher, with Cotchett Pitre in Burlingame.

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