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The primping has begun for what is expected to be one of the largest antitrust battles of 2003. The world’s major automakers have been holding beauty contests to select counsel for a host of potential class actions. The suits, which were brought starting in February, have been filed in federal and state courts around the country by plaintiffs firms including New York’s Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach and Boston’s Berman DeValerio Pease Tabacco Burt & Pucillo. The cases charge carmakers with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by conspiring to eliminate the import of lower-priced new cars from Canada into the United States. In Canada cars cost 10 — 30 percent less, plaintiffs allege, but to stop U.S. consumers from buying them, automakers have refused to honor warranties and penalized Canadian dealers for selling to Americans.

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