Opposing sides step up war of words over liner block exemption regulation
As European lawmakers continue to assess whether to extend liner shipping’s block exemption from its ...
Schenker has slammed Air France-KLM, Martinair and Qantas for demanding details of its relationship with clients, as part of a multibillion-dollar price-fixing lawsuit.
In a written statement to the United States District Court in New York, the forwarder wants the carriers’ “motion to compel” be denied, because it is “irrelevant”.
The carriers, found guilty of being part of a price-fixing cartel between 1999 and 2006, demanded details of Schenker’s forwarding services, including customer prices and surcharges, after the German freight forwarder launched a claim for damages against the airlines in late 2014.
Schenker said: “Defendants try to justify their motion by speculating that Schenker was aware of, and ‘may have been a knowing participant in, the alleged conspiracy among the air cargo carriers’.
“But [the] defendants offer no support for these theories, even though Schenker has produced a significant number of documents and data and there has been over a decade of investigations and lawsuits.”
The forwarder claimed that “downstream” information about its relationship with customers was irrelevant to a case about the effect of the carriers’ cartel on Schenker’s “upstream” purchases.
Furthermore, it said that, were the court to grant the carriers’ request, it would “greatly burden” the forwarder and could impact the court’s 30 June discovery deadline.
“The defendants’ decision to wait almost seven months to bring this motion (just before the discovery deadline), further prejudices Schenker,” said the forwarder.
“And defendants may be seeking downstream information to prejudice, embarrass or harass Schenker, or to use in the cases brought by Schenker in Europe, where pass-on may be a defence.”
The case is one of two civil litigation suits launched by the forwarder in 2014 against 14 carriers convicted of anti-trust price-fixing, after they failed to reach “acceptable” out of court settlements.
Alongside Air France-KLM, Martinair and Qantas, Cargolux, SAS and ANA are part of the New York action, while those airlines are joined by Lufthansa, British Airways, Swiss, LAN, Singapore Airlines, JAL, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific in a separate case being heard in Cologne.
State-owned Schenker is looking for as much as $3.3bn, claiming not only for damages but also for interest accrued on those damages during the intervening period.
Schenker’s head of group regulatory, competition and antitrust told The Loadstar the cases could take “many years” and hoped this may encourage the carriers to settle earlier.
One of the carriers named in the documents told The Loadstar the move appeared to be a strategy to achieve an out-of-court settlement.
When DB Schenker originally launched the case, some shippers had also expressed surprise at the move, given that the air freight carriers had been found guilty of price-fixing fuel surcharges, which freight forwarders would have simply passed onto customers.