Court Grants Motion to Compel Guardian to Turn Over Documents in Anti-Trust Suit
August 10, 2009

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has granted the plaintiffs' motion to compel Guardian Industries to produce several documents that were reviewed during the European Commission's (EC) price-fixing investigation. In the suit, the plaintiffs, which include a range of glass shops across the United States, allege that several glass manufacturers engaged in a conspiracy to fix prices. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

Guardian had objected to the motion, "arguing that the requests are overly broad, unreasonably burdensome and violative of principles of international comity," according to the court's opinion, released July 29.

The memo granting the motion, authored by Chief District Judge Donetta Ambrose, notes that "courts have traditionally taken a liberal view of relevance in determining the scope of discovery" in anti-trust cases.

"I agree that liberal discovery is necessary in an alleged antitrust conspiracy case where the alleged wrongdoing is generally covert," writes Ambrose. "I further agree with the Class Plaintiffs that the documents sought could be relevant to motive and opportunity for defendants to conspire in the United States, the scope and nature of such conspiracy and how defendants may have concealed any unlawful activities. Further, these documents may assist Class Plaintiffs in identifying witnesses for their case."

Ambrose also writes that while producing the documents could be a "substantial burden" to Guardian, because the documents are within the scope of the allegations, and because the class plaintiffs have alleged a link between the EC investigation, the EC cartel and "the alleged [U.S.] cartel, that is a burden that must be assumed."

A deadline for the production of the documents will be set at a meeting between the plaintiffs and Guardian, which is one of several defendants in the case, according to court documents.

In November 2007, the EC had levied fines against Guardian Industries, Pilkington, Saint-Gobain and AGC Flat Glass Europe for alleged price-fixing practices in the European flat glass market (CLICK HERE for related story.) In November 2008, further fines were imposed on Asahi, Pilkington, Saint-Gobain and Soliver for illegal market sharing and exchange of information regarding deliveries of auto glass in the European Economic Area (CLICK HERE for related story).

Plaintiffs include a list of glass companies, including both auto and flat, throughout the United States. (CLICK HERE for related story, including a full list of plaintiffs.)

In addition to Guardian, among the other defendants are Pilkington North America and PPG Industries. Plaintiffs allege that the manufacturers agreed to raise and fix prices "through a combination of collusive energy surcharges and price increases."

The manufacturers previously had motioned for the judge to dismiss the suit. That motion was denied in February.

CLICK HERE for full text of the order compelling Guardian to produce the EC documents.

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