Slaughters fails to save BA from price-fixing fine

British Airways (BA), advised by Slaughter and May, yesterday pleaded guilty to price-fixing in the US, admitting to two counts of engaging in conspiracies with other airlines to fix prices of fuel surcharges on passenger and cargo flights.

In the US District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, a judge upheld a $300m (£151m) fine, which was announced earlier this month (www,thelawyer.com, 2 August).

The fine could have been as high as $900m (£452m), but the court accepted an agreement between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and BA which involved the airline cooperating and pleading guilty to infringements of competition law.

BA was hit by the DOJ fine and an additional £121.5m from the Office of Fair Trading after Virgin Atlantic blew the whistle on conversations between senior figures between the airlines over the levies added to tickets to cover the rising cost of oil.

The news comes as Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll continue to pursue a class action in the US and the UK against BA and Virgin Atlantic for their roles in the price fixing cartel.

Michael Hausfeld of Cohen Milstein said that the DOJ stated that the price-fixing was “a significant illegal act” which impacted the markets and consumers.

On the class action Hausfeld said: “We have received dozens of phone calls in the UK from consumers and businesses who are interested in recovering that which was wrongfully taken by BA and Virgin.

“We intend to either resolve this matter by mediation, or by trial by the end of December of this year. We intend to resolve this in both the US and the UK on this timeline, and if that does not happen in the UK we plan to file a case by the end of this year.”