NEW YORK A&S Liquidating Inc. has filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Charlotte Pipe & Foundry Co. and McWane Inc. and their subsidiaries of conspiring to fix prices in the cast iron soil pipe and fittings market.
"This case alleges a conspiracy among all defendants to fix, raise, maintain and stabilize prices for cast iron soil pipe and fittings that they sold directly to plaintiff and other class members, which began at least as early as Jan. 1, 2006, and continues through the present," attorneys from San Francisco-based Gold, Bennett, Cera & Sidener LLP said in a filing in U.S. District Court in California.
Flint, Mich.-based A&S Liquidating, which purchased the products from the defendants through its predecessor company, A&S Supply Co. Inc., also alleges that Charlotte Pipes 2010 acquisition and liquidation of Star Pipe Products Ltd.s cast iron soil pipe and fittings business was made to "lessen competition in the ... market and to pave the way for Charlotte Pipe and McWane to continue to fix and set prices."
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this year released for public comment a proposed consent order settling alleged anti-competition charges over Charlotte Pipes purchase of Star Pipe (amm.com, April 3) The order prohibited Charlotte Pipe "from enforcing a confidentiality and noncompete agreement with Star Pipe, ensures that (the company) will publicly disclose its prior acquisitions of other (soil pipe) importers and requires (the company) to notify the commission before making future acquisitions."
A spokeswoman for Birmingham, Ala.-based McWane in an e-mail called the lawsuit "completely baseless," noting that the FTC had already "conducted a thorough investigation of this industry and the activities of (trade association) Cast Iron Soil Pipe Institute and closed their investigation with no action against the trade association or our company."
She added that "this latest case is nothing more than predatory litigation with no factual or legal basis. We will aggressively defend this case and will prevail."
Charlotte, N.C.-based Charlotte Pipe could not be reached for comment.
McWane and Charlotte Pipe control more than 90 percent of the cast iron soil pipe and fittings market, according to the lawsuit.