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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Reams Both Sides in Tech Antitrust Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A frustrated federal judge told the parties in an antitrust class action against major tech firms that the case could not move forward until their attorneys sit down and determine the case's contours.

"Right now, nobody's on the same page," U.S. District Judge James Donato said. "This thing is a mess."

The consolidated class action involves in part a 2014 complaint filed by lead plaintiff Chip-Tech accusing a host of corporations - including Panasonic and Samsung - of conspiring to fix the prices of capacitors, a common component of most electronic devices.

Donato structured Wednesday's hearing of motions for summary judgment by ticking through the situational categories of the Sherman Antitrust Act, asking the parties to decide within which categories the case would proceed.

In one example, he challenged the plaintiffs on whether goods both bought and resold overseas constituted "import commerce" under the Sherman Act.

The plaintiffs contended that where the goods are resold does not figure into the case at all, but Donato stopped the argument.

"I take seriously, as I must, that the Sherman Act focuses on the U.S., U.S. markets, U.S. consumers and U.S. parties," he said. "We cannot be a global competition policeperson. We don't do that. And you're dangerously close to gutting that limitation."

Donato also told the parties that "you all can't even make agreements about who shipped what to where."

He added, "I was sort of tempted to say that you all are just so far apart in genuine material facts that I'm not going to spend any time on it. But I'm now going to undertake what has been described as the backbreaking labor of what the content is, not just the general descriptions. We're actually going to cut to the facts."

And class certification "is going to be a nightmare in this case unless we start defining now who the plaintiffs are," he said.

He also scolded the parties for disrespecting proper legal procedure.

"You send me 38 pages over whether discovery was done correctly and at the same time you ask me to enter summary judgment," he said. "How is that possible? I'll answer it for you - it's not possible."

Donato gave the parties two weeks to "sit down and figure it out in person" before he would give the case further consideration.

"Send me data that I can track," he said. "It will not take me a huge amount of time once I get that data. The data is missing."

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