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In re Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 3, 2017

IN RE AUTOMOTIVE PARTS ANTITRUST LITIGATION In Re Shock Absorbers THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO Dealership Actions, End-Payor Actions Nos. 16-03302, 15-03303


          MARIANNE O. BATTANI, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants KYB Corporation, f/k/a/ Kayaba Industry Co., Ltd., (“KYB Industry) and KYB Americas Corporation (“KYB Corporation”) (collectively “KYB Defendants”) Collective Motion to Dismiss the End-Payor Plaintiffs' and Auto Dealer Plaintiffs' Class Action Complaints (Doc. No. 3 in 16-3302; Doc. No. 23 in 15-3303). In their motion, KYB Defendants challenge the sufficiency of the allegations of the conspiracy pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court has reviewed all of the filings, The Court has reviewed all of the filings, and for the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         After the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“Judicial Panel” or “Panel”) transferred actions sharing “factual questions arising out of an alleged conspiracy to inflate, fix, raise, maintain, or artificially stabilize prices of automotive wire harness systems” to the Eastern District of Michigan, (12-md-02311, Doc. No. 2), in February 2012, the scope and extent of alleged antitrust conspiratorial conduct in the automotive component parts industry grew significantly. In June 2012, the Judicial Panel expanded MDL No. 2311 to include alleged conspiracies to fix the prices of three additional component parts, and to date the number of component parts has reached forty. Thereafter, Court entered a briefing order to streamline the resolution of motions filed in the component parts cases, with a focus on eliminating duplicative discovery, preventing inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserving resources. (See Doc. No. 793 in 12-2311). In the briefing order, the Court instructed the parties to identify previously uncited authority from the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit, or the highest court of the state under which the claim was brought when addressing state law claims. Id.

         Consequently, to the extent that no new authority is included, the Court relies on the analysis set forth in its prior opinions resolving collective motions to dismiss Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs' complaints. To the extent that the parties argue for a different outcome on a particular claim, but provided no new authority, or provide new authority to support a previous outcome, the Court declines to address these arguments. Instead, the Court directs its attention to those claims where Defendants advance new authority in asserting that the Court must dismiss assert that new case law requires a different resolution from the Court's prior decisions.

         Automobile Dealer Plaintiffs (“ADPs”) and End-Payor Plaintiffs (“EPPs”) (collectively “Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs” or “IPPs”) bring class actions against Defendants under federal and state law based on Defendants' alleged conspiracy to rig bids, fix the prices, and allocate the market and customers of Shock Absorbers manufactured or sold in the United States. (Doc. No. 1 in 16-11256, hereinafter “ADPs' Complaint, ” at ¶ 1; Doc. No. 1 in 15-14080, hereinafter, “EPPs' Complaint, ” at ¶ 1). Defendants are manufacturers or sellers of Shock Absorbers that are manufactured or sold in the United States. (ADP's Complaint at ¶¶ 1, 4, 144, 145; EPPs' Complaint at ¶¶ 1, 4, 106). Shock Absorbers, also called dampers, “are part of the suspension system on automobiles. They absorb and dissipate energy to help cushion vehicles on uneven roads leading to improved ride quality and vehicle handling.” (ADPs' Compl. at ¶ 3).

         On September 16, 2015, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that Defendant Kayaba Industry Co., Ltd. agreed to plead guilty to criminal Information and to pay a $62 million fine for participation in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the automotive parts industry. (ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 7). It agreed to fix the prices of Shock Absorbers sold in the United States and elsewhere. (ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 7). According to the DOJ, KYB Industries sold Shock Absorbers “to Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (manufacturer of Subaru vehicles), Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., Nissan Motor Company Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corporation, and Toyota Motor Company, and certain of their subsidiaries (collectively “Vehicle Manufacturers”) in the United States and elsewhere from as early as the mid-1990s and continuing until at least December 2012 in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.” (ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 81; EPPs' Complaint at ¶ 98).

         According to IPPs, KYB Industries is the largest manufacturer of Shock Absorbers. (See e.g. ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 64). IPPs also allege that KYB Defendants acted as a supplier to Original Equipment Manufacturers (“OEMs”) and rigged bids to OEMs with their co-conspirators. (ADPs' Complaint at ¶¶ 66, 67; EPPs' Complaint at ¶ ¶ 1, 120, 121).

         In their complaints, IPPs allege that market conditions conducive to an antitrust conspiracy exist. (ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 70; EPPs' Complaint at ¶ 123). Specifically, the Shock Absorbers market has high barriers to entry, which facilitate the formation and maintenance of a cartel. (ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 162; EPPs' Complaint at ¶ 88). Those barriers include “costly and lengthy start-up costs, including multi-million dollar costs associated with manufacturing plants and equipment, energy, transportation, distribution infrastructure, and long-standing customer relationships.” (ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 72; EPPs' Complaint at ¶ 89). Defendants own patents, another factor hindering entry into the market. (ADPs' Complaint at ¶ 73; EPPs' Complaint at ¶ 90). IPPs further allege inelasticity of demand. (ADPs' Complaint at ¶¶ 75-77; EPPs' Complaint at ¶¶ 92-94).


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows district courts to dismiss a complaint which fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff must show that his complaint alleges facts which, if proven, would entitle him to relief. First Am. Title Co. v. DeVaugh, 480 F.3d 438, 443 (6th Cir. 2007). “A complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations with respect to all material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Weiner v. Klais & Co., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court “must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept all factual allegations as true, and determine whether the complaint contains enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the federal procedural rules do not require that the facts alleged in the complaint be detailed, “ ‘a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.' ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”).

         III. ANALYSIS

         KYB Defendants argue that the facts, as alleged in the complaints, support dismissal because they reveal that IPPs lack standing to bring the claims and they do not meet the pleadings standards articulated in Twombly. The arguments are discussed below.

         A. ...

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