NEW YORK Skyline Steel LLC is suing PilePro LLC, PilePro Sales Corp., PilePro Steel LP and Plymouth Tube Co. for alleged anti-competitive and exclusionary conduct in the modular steel connector market.
Skyline Steel, a subsidiary of Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp., alleges in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey that PilePro and Plymouth Tube conspired to keep Skyline out of the domestic connector market by entering into an unreasonably long exclusive manufacturing agreement shortly after Skyline entered the market with its own connectors, which were extruded by Plymouth Tube.
The agreement prevented Plymouth Tube, the only domestic extruder of connectors, from extruding all connectors or any other type of product for Skyline until December 2021, according to court documents.
Subsequent to the Plymouth Tube deal, Skyline Steel said it was coerced into signing an anti-competitive purchase agreement with PilePro to settle baseless patent-infringement litigation brought by PilePro against Skylines connectors, which hold together vertical wall components of steel sheet piling or long steel pipes.
Skyline claimed it settled the litigation, which forced it to stop the manufacture of its own connectors, in part because PilePro agreed to supply it with all connectors at prices specified in the agreement going forward.
However, Austin, Texas-based PilePro subsequently increased prices for domestic connectors significantly above terms set in the agreement and delayed or refused to ship connectors to Skyline, according to the lawsuit.
This web of anti-competitive agreements is expressly designed to foreclose competition so that customers are forced to purchase certain types of sheet and pipe piling that use connectors made exclusively by PilePro, irrespective of whether such piling is a more efficient, cost-effective or desirable solution for customers, the lawsuit alleges. Skylines connectors can be up to four times more efficient than the products sold by PilePro, according to the filing.
The lawsuit cites a document allegedly circulated by PilePro entitled 7 Steel Samurai: A Proposal for a Joint Venture, which set out a plan by which 100 percent of the global steel wall piling supply would be provided by either a local PilePro franchisee or PilePros joint venture (Steel Wall Systems Global).
In addition to its other alleged anti-competitive behavior, PilePro also hired away a former Skyline Steel executive tasked with the companys entry into the connector market, gaining business-sensitive market information in the process, with the company losing at least one job as a result, according to the filing.
Nucor, PilePro and Warrenville, Ill.-based Plymouth Tube did not return requests for comment.