Sea Star reaches $18.5 million settlement
Sea Star Line said last week it has entered into a settlement agreement in class action antitrust litigation pending in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. mainland/Puerto Rico carrier said several class action lawsuits were filed against Sea Star Line and other carriers on behalf of direct purchasers of domestic ocean transportation services in the Puerto Rico trade lane. Those lawsuits were combined into one multidistrict litigation proceeding in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico. The complaints alleged price-fixing in violation of the Sherman Act and sought treble damages for alleged overcharges, along with costs and attorney's fees and an injunction against future unlawful conduct.
Under the July 21 settlement agreement, Sea Star and certain affiliated companies have agreed to pay $18.5 million to resolve claims for alleged antitrust violations in the Puerto Rico trade lane.
In 2009 four shipping executives — three from Horizon Lines and one from Sea Star Line — received prison sentences and were fined for their roles in what the U.S. Justice Department has described as an antitrust conspiracy involving goods moving between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico. Another Sea Star executive was given a seven-month sentence and fined $4,000 for obstructing the investigation.
The carrier said the settlement agreement is subject to court approval, and that the process is likely to take several months to complete. In addition, Sea Star has the right to terminate the settlement agreement under certain circumstances.
Sea Star has also been sued by persons purporting to represent a class of indirect purchasers to domestic ocean transportation services in the Puerto Rico trade lane. Sea Star believes those claims have no legal merit and is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed.
Sea Star Line said it received a grand jury subpoena and search warrant seeking information regarding an investigation by the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department into possible antitrust violations in the Puerto Rico trade lane. Sea Star said it continues to cooperate fully with the investigation.