Hard disk drive (HDD) suspension assemblies are components of hard disk assemblies. The complaint for this antitrust class action alleges that an international group of companies who makes these components entered into anticompetitive conspiracy to raise prices and allot market shares for their products. The complaint charges that the members include Headway Technologies, Inc., Hutchinson Technology Inc., Magnecomp Precision Technology Public Co. Ltd., NAT Peripheral (Dong Guan) Co., Ltd., NAT Peripheral (HK) Co., Ltd., NHK Spring Co. Ltd., NHK International Corporation, NHK Spring (Thailand) Co., Ltd., NHK Spring Precision (Guangzhou) Co, Ltd., SAE Magnetics (HK) Ltd., and TDK Corporation.
HDDs have recording heads, attached to sliders, to magnetically read from and write on rapidly-spinning hard disks. The suspension assemblies keep the heads close to the disks and provide the electrical connection the heads need to operate. HDD suspension assemblies can be sold as part of an electronic system, such as a computer, gaming system, printer, or copy machine, or they can be arranged and packaged as standalone products.
Defendants NHK and TDK and their subsidiaries were the leading makers of HDD suspension assemblies, with a world market share of around 90%. The complaint alleges that the conspiracy was in existence from May 2008 to at least April 2016.
Since 2016, governments of a number of countries, including the US, Japan, and Brazil, have been investigating the alleged price fixed. In February 2018, the Japanese Fair Trade Commission issued a cease-and-desist order to NHK and TDK. In July 2019, the DOJ announced that NHK had agreed to plead guilty and pay a $28.5 million fine.
Why then is a class action needed? The governmental groups are interested in law enforcement; they will assess fines or take other actions. But none of these fines will go to the buyers of HDD suspension during the time of the conspiracy.
The complaint says, “As a direct and proximate result of the anticompetitive and unlawful behavior” these companies engaged in, a class of buyers “paid more … for HDD suspension assemblies than they otherwise would have paid in a competitive market.” It seeks to recover some of that overpayment specifically for those buyers.
The Nationwide Class for this action is all persons and entities who, between May 2008 and the end of the anticompetitive behavior, indirectly bought a product, not for resale, which included one or more HDD suspension assemblies that were made or sold by the defendants in this case or any of their co-conspirators.
There is also a Damages Class made up of those in a similar class who are in Arizona, Arkansas, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.