HKEx says settlement reached on US aluminium price-fixing claims

LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) - Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd (HKEx) <0388.HK) said on Sunday it had settled two class-action lawsuit complaints against itself and subsidiary the London Metal Exchange (LME) over allegations of anti-competitive and monopolistic behaviour.

The lawsuits, brought by small aluminium manufacturers in the United States, accused banks and traders of hoarding metal in LME warehouses, driving up the prices of industrial products from soft-drink cans to aeroplanes.

Of 26 lawsuits filed against LME, 24 were consolidated into three complaints according to type of user: “first-level” purchasers that buy primary aluminium, consumer end users and commercial end users.

“The consumer end user plaintiffs and commercial end user plaintiffs have entered into a settlement and mutual release ... to bring an end to their class-action lawsuits,” HKEx said in a statement, adding that no money had been paid by either side.

HKEx said the main condition of the settlement was that the LME had agreed the plaintiffs would be free to request publicly available data from it, something they had been prevented from doing while the LME remained a defendant.

The LME, which was bought by HKEx in December 2012, says more than 80 percent of non-ferrous metals futures business is transacted on its platforms, totalling $14.6 trillion in 2013.

In March a U.S. judge threw out the aluminium price-fixing claims against several Wall Street banks, commodity merchants and HKEx.

With regard to the third lawsuit complaint, the “first level” purchasers, HKEx said that plaintiffs had not yet filed an appeal against a U.S. District Court’s decision. (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Susan Fenton)