Federal Court Judge Dismisses Aluminium Antitrust Litigation Against Glencore, et al.

Federal Court Judge Dismisses Aluminium Antitrust Litigation Against Glencore, et al.
Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse, Manhattan. Source: Wikimedia

A federal court judge in Manhattan dismissed an antitrust lawsuit brought by aluminium buyers against The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Glencore plc. The three-year-long lawsuit alleged that the three firms colluded to restrict aluminium supplies and artificially drive up prices.

U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest handed down her ruling on Wednesday, reasoning that the several plaintiffs again failed to show that they had sufficient evidence to qualify for antitrust standing, and that the actions the plaintiffs alleged were not anti-competitive in nature.

“Frankly put, the economics of the alleged conspiracy as pled do not work,” Forrest, a 2011 Obama appointee, said in her written opinion. “The allegations tell a story consistent with market-driven behavior by traders and warehouses rather than unlawful conspiracy.”

Two different parties, namely “first-level purchasers” (FLPs) and “indirect” commercial and consumer end users, alleged “shenanigans” by warehousers that caused the Platts Midwest Premium price to rise. Although the parties together submitted over 2,600 pages of legal filings, Forrest determined that the plaintiffs still failed to meet their burden of proof as a matter of law.

“There is no allegation or evidence in the record that defendants engaged in any anticompetitive [sic] conduct outside of the aluminum warehouse services market,” Forrest wrote. “Profit by defendants or losses by plaintiffs subsequently experienced in physical aluminum is irrelevant to antitrust standing.”

Although she prohibited commercial and consumer end-user plaintiffs to refile and again attempt to prove the antitrust charges, she allowed the remaining buyers 21 days to do so.

The opinion ended with an extensive footnote lamenting the fact that a recent United States Supreme Court ruling, styled Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., 135 S. Ct. 897 (2015), allows the plaintiffs whose claims were dismissed to appeal the dismissal, thus prolonging and complicating multi-district litigation.

“In this case, the opposite has occurred,” she wrote. “A ‘Gelboim Appeal’ has caused a case nearing final procedural stages to come to a halt. Perhaps this is the most just result. But plaintiffs will undoubtedly appeal–and if successful, the parties will be picking up where they left off two years hence.”