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UK lawyer seeks Asian plaintiffs for cartel case

South China Morning Post – 21 July 2011

Few firms from region act over airfreight price-fixing by airlines including Cathay Pacific

A partner in a London law firm will arrive in Beijing this weekend to start an Asian visit that aims to encourage cargo owners to seek compensation from airlines involved in a price-fixing cartel.

Anthony Maton, of Hausfeld LLP, said more than 300 firms, which paid at least US$3 billion in airfreight charges to 37 airlines including Cathay Pacific (SEHK: 0293), had so far signed up, but most were Western companies.

The Hausfeld action, expected to go to trial in London next year, is one of four compensation cases being brought globally against around 50 airlines over fuel surcharges on cargo between 2000 and 2006. Criminal prosecutions are taking place in six jurisdictions. Cathay Pacific has so far been fined US$145 million. It is appealing against some judgments.

Maton says there are various reasons firms in China, South Korea or Japan might not have acted: they may not understand that they can file a claim in London, some staff may be in denial and managers may be reluctant to admit being overcharged.

“You’ve got some instances of people who are reluctant to believe they have been stuffed,” Maton said. “Undeniably, Asian companies suffered losses as a result of the cartel.”

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