US judge dismisses aluminum antitrust claims

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday narrowed a long-running antitrust case where aluminum purchasers accused Goldman Sachs , JPMorgan Chase and the mining company Glencore of conspiring to drive up the metal’s price by reducing supply.

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U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer said many purchasers lacked standing to sue because they had bought aluminum primarily from smelters such as Alcoa and Rio Tinto Alcan rather than directly from the defendants, and thus did not qualify as “efficient enforcers” of antitrust laws.

In a 66-page decision, the Manhattan judge also said pricing decisions by the smelters appeared to be a big factor in the prices ultimately charged, and that those prices were “not the inevitable result of defendants’ alleged conspiracy.”

The purchasers had accused banks and commodity trading, mining and metals warehousing companies of conspiring to hoard aluminum when prices were low roughly a decade ago.

They said this resulted in delays in processing orders and higher storage costs, raising the cost of making cabinets, flashlights, soda cans and other goods containing aluminum.

Engelmayer dismissed all claims by several individual purchasers including Eastman Kodak and Fujifilm, as well as claims by some “first level” purchasers whose motion for class certification he had denied last July.

The judge said Reynolds Consumer Products and two other plaintiffs that transacted directly with the defendants could still pursue their cases.

Lawyers for the various plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Goldman spokeswoman Maeve DuVally, JPMorgan spokesman Brian Marchiony and Glencore spokesman Charles Watenphul declined to comment.

The litigation began in 2013. Another judge had dismissed various antitrust claims in 2016, but was overturned by the federal appeals court in Manhattan in 2019.

The main case is In re Aluminum Warehousing Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-md-02481.

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