U.S. lawyers leading aluminum antitrust lawsuit will replead case

NEW YORK, Sept 4 Thu Sep 4, 2014 5:46pm EDT

NEW YORK, Sept 4 (Reuters) - U.S. lawyers spearheading an antitrust lawsuit accusing Wall Street banks and commodity merchants of manipulating aluminum prices will continue to fight the case even though it was dismissed last week by a U.S. judge.

Battling one of the most complex legal actions of his 30-plus-year career, one of three co-lead counsels Christopher Lovell said on Thursday they plan to replead their case by the Sept. 19 deadline set by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest last Friday.

The three attorneys represent eight small U.S. aluminum consumers, which allege Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Glencore conspired to drive up prices by reducing supply.

One of the companies, Superior Extrusion, filed the first case in August last year, triggering over two dozen other companies to follow suit in what has become the highest profile legal action to rock the base metals market in two decades.

In an 85-page ruling last Friday that struck a big blow to their case, Judge Forrest said the plaintiffs did not show sufficient evidence that the banks and merchants intended to manipulate prices.

She did concede that the defendants' actions had driven up prices of aluminum, which is used to make beverage cans and airplanes.

But Forrest, who is a former antitrust lawyer and previously worked as an antitrust enforcer at the U.S. Justice Department, has set a high bar for what she will accept in any repleading of the case.

"This is much more complex than other antitrust cases," said Lovell, partner at New York law firm Lovell Stewart Halebian Jacobson who has fought more than a dozen antitrust and price-fixing commodity cases in a 30-plus-year career.

The judge has blocked two other groups of plaintiffs in the class-action suit - commercial end users and consumer end users - from repleading as they lacked antitrust standing. They can appeal her the decision though.

Attorneys representing them did not return calls.

Legal experts say plaintiffs in all antitrust cases have had a steeper hill to climb since a 2007 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court required that they show in the early stages of litigation some evidence of a conspiracy to reduce competition.

Chris Sagers, a professor at Cleveland State University who specializes in antitrust law, said the odds of a successful appeal "aren't great."

Companies represented by Lovell as well as attorneys from Grant & Eisenhofer and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd include: Ampal Inc, Custom Aluminum Inc, Extruded Aluminum Corp, International Extrusions Inc, Superior Extrusions Inc, Peterson Industries Inc, Pierce Aluminum Co, and Thule Inc.

Mag Instrument Inc and Agfa Corp did not consolidate their claims with the others, but are allowed to replead.

Their lawyer, Christopher Burke, said last Friday his clients plan to replead their cases.

The case is In re: Aluminum Warehousing Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-md-02481. (Additional reporting by David Ingram; editing by Andrew Hay)

Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.