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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Japanese Tech Firms Offer $15M Over Price-Fixing

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Three Japanese electronics firms agreed to pay nearly $15 million to settle claims that they conspired for more than a decade to fix the prices of capacitors, ubiquitous components used in most electronic devices.

The litigation stretches back to July 2014 when lead plaintiff Chip Tech Ltd. sued a slew of electronics manufacturers, including Panasonic, Sanyo and Hitachi.

Capacitors are "fundamental building blocks" of electronic devices, used to store electrical charges in electric circuits. An average smartphone uses 300 to 500 capacitors, and computers can contain 100 to 700 capacitors, according to Chip Tech's 2014 complaint.

Under the proposed settlement announced Thursday, NEC Tokin will pay $13.25 million, Nitsuko will pay $800,000, and Okaya will pay $900,000 to settle claims over the antitrust conspiracy with a class of indirect buyers.

The agreement comes one week after the same tech firms, joined by Tokyo-based Rohm Semiconductor, agreed to fork over $32.6 million to settle the same price fixing claims with a class of direct purchaser plaintiffs.

The motion for preliminary settlement approval seeks to create three settlement classes for each defendant. Those classes would include any person or entity who indirectly purchased a capacitor manufactured by the defendants during varying timelines between January 2002 to present.

A proposed settlement notice plan lays out a strategy to inform potential class members about the deal through direct mail, emails, a website, toll-free number and advertisements in trade magazines, general news publications and on electronics-themed websites.

The indirect purchaser class is represented by Steven Williams of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame, California. Williams did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

George Nicoud III, of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in San Francisco, represents NEC Token, which has agreed to pay a total of $37.25 million to settle antitrust claims with direct and indirect buyers.

Nicoud deferred comment on the settlements to his client. A spokeswoman at NEC Token did not immediately return a phone call request for comment on Friday.

A hearing for preliminary approval of two settlements with direct and indirect buyers is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 14, in U.S. District Judge James Donato's courtroom in San Francisco.

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