Lawsuits accusing Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), their warehousing businesses and the London Metal Exchange of constricting aluminum supplies and driving up prices will be handled in a New York court.
Twenty-six federal cases have been filed accusing the defendants, in various combinations, of violating U.S. antitrust laws. While most were brought in Detroit, some are already pending in New York, with others in Los Angeles, New Orleans and elsewhere.
Arguments promoting each location as most suitable for pretrial exchanges of evidence and depositions were made before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on Dec. 5 in Las Vegas. That panel issued a decision yesterday choosing New York.
“The forum has significant connections to the litigation in as much as defendants JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs are headquartered there,” the judges said. “Numerous decisions regarding alleged anticompetitive conduct in the market for aluminum likely were made in this district.”
The cases will be assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest in Manhattan. The panel called her “a jurist well-versed in the nuances of complex antitrust litigation.”
Detroit is the world’s second-biggest repository for aluminum stockpiles monitored by LME, the world’s largest industrial metals marketplace. Goldman Sachs’s Metro International Trade Services LLC has the most LME-approved warehouses in the city.
Delays of as long as 16 months in filling orders raised prices for makers of outdoor porch screens, flashlights and other products that contain aluminum, according to the complaints.
“The monopoly allegedly occurred in Detroit,” Christopher Lovell, an attorney who filed the first of the lawsuits on Aug. 1 on behalf of Gwinn, Michigan-based aluminum fabricator Superior Extrusion Inc., told the panel in Las Vegas.
The restraint of trade “emanated” from Detroit, where 75 percent of the warehoused aluminum in the U.S. is stored, he said.
Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, and Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for JPMorgan, have each said the cases are without merit. JPMorgan’s metal warehousing business is called Henry Bath & Son Ltd.
“The center of gravity in the United States, if it’s anywhere, is in New York,” attorney Margaret Zwisler argued before the panel for JPMorgan and the London Metal Exchange. “The issue here is who made the rules and how were they made.”
Goldman Sachs waived its right to argue before the typically seven-member panel, from which appellate judge Marjorie Rendell was absent. U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle, a new panel member, didn’t take part in yesterday’s decision, according to the order.
The case is In Re Aluminum Warehousing Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 2481, Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (Las Vegas).
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