Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, a consumer-rights law firm, today announced that the firm, working alongside 33 state attorneys general, has reached a proposed $75 million settlement with global book publisher Penguin (PSO) over allegations that it participated in an illegal scheme to fix the price of e-books in the United States.
The lawsuit asserts that Penguin actively participated in a price-fixing scheme orchestrated by Apple (AAPL) that artificially raised e-book prices and created a virtual cartel, eliminating any retailer competition on price.
The $75 million settlement, if approved by the court, would resolve claims filed by 33 states against Penguin as well as class-action lawsuits filed by consumers alleging that the company’s behavior violated unfair competition laws, causing consumers to overpay for e-books.
“This proposed settlement is a powerful demonstration of what is possible when federal, state and private class antitrust enforcement lawyers work together,” said Steve W. Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “In this case, the level of cooperation was unprecedented, and the results that we were able to deliver to the states and consumers demonstrate that.”
Late last year, Penguin settled similar claims with the Department of Justice. Under that settlement, Penguin agreed to end its allegedly anticompetitive agreements with Apple and other retailers for a period of two years.
In December, Berman was appointed lead counsel to represent the rights of consumers in the consolidated class-action lawsuit first filed on Aug. 9, 2011. It alleges that the defendants coordinated a switch to an agency model, where publishers would set the price, rather than retailers. The result, the lawsuit claims, was a dramatic increase in the price of many e-books as retailers were contractually forbidden from competing on price. The suit sought to compensate consumers for overpayment as a result of the pricing agreement.
“Penguin's senior management deserves credit for working with us and the attorneys general to reach a comprehensive agreement in such a hotly contested case,” said Jeff D. Friedman, Hagens Berman partner. “They’ve agreed to a settlement that will go a long way toward making e-book consumers whole and restoring a thriving, again-competitive e-book marketplace.”
The states and the Department of Justice are scheduled to face Apple in a civil trial regarding these claims beginning on June 3, 2013.
The settlement with Penguin must be approved by the court. A hearing is expected later this summer. For more information or to track the progress of the settlement, visit www.hbsslaw.com/ebooks.
Seattle-based Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP represents consumers, whistleblowers, investors, workers and others in complex and class-action litigation. The firm has offices in ten cities and has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List five times. Founded in 1993, HBSS continues to successfully fight for consumer rights in large, complex litigation against large corporations. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Visit the firm’s class-action law blog at www.classactionlawtoday.com.
Mark Firmani, 206-443-9357