After a five-week trial, a federal jury in San Francisco issued a defense verdict in a $500 million antitrust class action filed against two South Korean companies accused of conspiring to fix the price of ramen noodles.
Food retailers and distributors in 23 states sued Nongshim Co. and Ottogi Corp. in an antitrust case alleging that South Korea’s two leading ramen producers conspired for more than a decade to fix, raise, maintain or stabilize the price of Korean noodles sold in the U.S.
The plaintiffs in 2013 decided to sue the companies in the U.S. following a 2008 investigation by the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), which found that Nongshim and its competitors had raised ramen prices in the Korean market without first getting approval from the Korean government. The KFTC later issued an order fining Nongshim and its competitors $100 million each, but the order was later reversed by the Korean Supreme Court in 2015.
The U.S. plaintiffs’ action was tried before U.S. District Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California. After three hours of deliberation, the jury found that the plaintiffs did not prove the companies conspired to fix U.S. prices.
“It is quite rare for antitrust class action cases to go to verdict in the U.S., and we are delighted with the jury’s conclusion,” Dosker said.
“We are thrilled for our client. It was a decisive vindication for them. The jury spent over five week deliberating over evidence,’’ Edelman said. “I just think that the evidence and the experts the plaintiffs put forward were not convincing.’’
Alan Plutzik, a partner in Walnut Creek’s Bramson Plutzik Mahler & Birkhaeuser who represented the plaintiffs at trial, did not return a call for comment.