JPMorgan affiliate in UK seeks to exit aluminum price-fixing case

NEW YORK, July 29 Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:52pm EDT

NEW YORK, July 29 (Reuters) - A British affiliate of JPMorgan Chase & Co on Tuesday asked a U.S. judge to dismiss claims brought against it in nationwide antitrust litigation over the alleged manipulation of aluminum prices.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Henry Bath & Son Ltd said it never did business in the United States nor directed any activity toward the country. So it said the court lacked jurisdiction to hear claims against it.

Henry Bath said it supports earlier requests by defendants including its Henry Bath LLC unit, which operates warehouses in Baltimore, Chicago and New Orleans, to dismiss related claims.

The lawsuit by so-called direct purchaser plaintiffs, commercial end-user plaintiffs and consumer end-user plaintiffs accuse JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, their warehousing units and the London Metal Exchange of conspiring since May 2009 to drive up aluminum prices by reducing supply.

These plaintiffs said the collusion caused delays, sometimes referred to as queues, of as long as 16 months to fill orders. Twenty-six price-fixing lawsuits were consolidated in December before U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan.

"The complaints do not allege that Henry Bath U.K. has queues at any warehouse in the world," Henry Bath & Son said. "Accordingly, even if this court has jurisdiction over Henry Bath U.K, the complaints should be dismissed for failure to state a claim."

According to the LME, Henry Bath's 13 LME-registered storage locations had no queues, while Goldman's Metro International Trade Services warehouse in Detroit had a more than 22-month waiting period.

Christopher Lovell, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the case, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In March, JPMorgan agreed to sell its physical commodities business, including Henry Bath, to Switzerland-based Mercuria Energy Group Ltd for $3.5 billion. The sale has yet to close.

The case is In re: Aluminum Warehousing Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-md-02481. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)