11th March 2009
Michael Hausfeld has come a long way in the five months since he was allegedly expelled from his former firm Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll (now Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll) and he has his partner Anthony Maton to thank for it.
Last November Hausfeld left the firm to set up his own firm in Washington. In February he was joined by the London branch of Cohen Milstein, of which Maton was a partner.
Now, just months into the new firm’s life, Maton has managed to set a legal precedent. The firm has steered its clients towards settling numerous claims with one part of a US-based cartel without going near a court or entering arbitration. Which is quite a feat by anyone’s standards.
The case revolves around five manufacturers of marine hose – the flexible rubber hose that transfers oil between tankers and storage facilities – who two years ago were found to have conspired to fix the price of the product over a 21-year period. Co-conspirators included major manufacturers Dunlop Oil & Marine, Bridgestone Corporation and Parker ITR.
After setting aside cash to settle any claims relating to its involvement in the cartel, Parker ITR has opted to forego litigation, choosing instead to automatically settle claims brought against it, regardless of where the claimants are based.
According to Hausfeld & Co’s Maton the fact that the cartel had been wound up in 2007 after being found guilty by authorities in the US, UK and the European Union meant its member companies were ideally positioned to offer automatic settlement.
Yet Parker ITR is the only cartelist to go for automatic settlement.
“Companies are not used to settling cases in the UK and EU,” said Maton. “They will settle in the US because that’s where they expect claims to be brought.”
But setting legal precedent is not new for Hausfeld & Co. Remember the settlement reached in the US price-fixing class action brought against British Airways and Virgin Atlantic? It was the first transatlantic case of its kind and Maton, then still a partner in the London office of Cohen Milstein, led for the claimants.
For those participating in cartels, Hausfeld & Co – and Maton – is becoming a force to be reckoned with.