Wisconsin companies recently started receiving payouts under the settlement of a lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court that alleged they overpaid for their natural gas as far back as 18 years ago due to price fixing.
At issue was whether the federal Natural Gas Act preempted state antitrust claims based on a conspiracy to inflate prices in retail natural gas sales from 2000 to 2002.
The Wisconsin plaintiffs in the class action suit, which included industrial and commercial users, were: Wauwatosa-based engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton Corp.; Menomonee Falls-based commercial printer Arandell Corp.; Cudahy-based forging company ATI Ladish LLC (which has since been acquired); Kenosha-based Carthage College; Middleton-based animal nutrition provider Merrick’s Inc.; Wisconsin Rapids-based NewPage Wisconsin System Inc. (since acquired); and Plymouth-based cheesemaker Sargento Foods Inc. They alleged retail prices for natural gas more than doubled in the early 2000s due to a conspiracy among large natural gas companies.
Robert Gegios of Glendale law firm Kohner, Mann & Kailas S.C. is representing the companies in the case.
Partial settlements of more than $20 million have now been reached with four defendant groups in the lawsuits, which are being paid out to Wisconsin companies and government and public entities. Their net recovery is about $12 million. There are 11 total defendant groups.
Among the funds being paid out are $1.2 million to the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration; $348,000 to Milwaukee Public Schools; and $91,000 to Madison Metropolitan School District.
Gegios said this was a highly unusual case because of the size of the recoveries awarded to the plaintiffs.
"The numbers were just extremely unusual for significant recovery in a class action,” he said. "A lot of very worthy entities are recouping something after a very long fight.”
The plaintiffs still are pursuing additional recovery from the remaining defendants, according to KMK.