In re Mercedes-Benz Antitrust Litig., 99-CV-431 (AMW) (D.N.J.)

An antitrust class action in which plaintiffs alleged that MBUSA, the national distributor of Mercedes-Benz automobiles, along with twenty-four of its dealers in the New York Region and the accounting firm Sheft Kahn Co., LLP engaged in a per se unlawful price-fixing conspiracy to limit discounting of new Mercedes automobiles sold or leased in the New York Region between February 1992 and August 1999. The New York Region includes dealers in New York City as well as suburban New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

As alleged, the conspiracy had two central aspects. The first involved the Sheft Kahn Group, consisting of New York Region dealers, including MBM, which: 1) created detailed reports of members' gross profits and pricing-related information, which were widely shared and discussed among the allegedly competing members, and 2) held meetings, attended by MBM, and which attendance by other dealers was encouraged and directed by MBUSA, involving extensive pricing-related discussions of historical and anticipated gross profits among supposed competitors, which allowed the coconspirators  to determine price-levels at which new Mercedes-Benz vehicles were sold or leased.

The second aspect involved MBUSA's communications and directives to its New York Region dealers, which included discussions regarding "gross profit per vehicle" by MBUSA officials directly with New York Region dealers during regular, in-person visits to the dealers. These communications were an essential means of implementing, monitoring, and enforcing compliance with defendants' overall conspiracy of maintaining the price of new Mercedes-Benz vehicles at artificially inflated levels. The overall goal was to insure that all New York Region dealers were selling vehicles at as close to list price as possible in order to meet MBUSA's and the dealers' mutual 10% retained gross profit target and eliminate competition among New York Region dealers.

Settlement recoveries exceeded $17 million.

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