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Asiana joins long list of cartel settlements

Cargo settlementNEW YORK: Asiana Airlines has agreed to pay US$55 million to settle air cargo anti-trust charges.

The carrier joins 24 others who have paid over US$900 million in response to civil litigation claims they overcharged shippers for air freight services.

Hausfeld law partner Brent Landau, one of the lead litigators in the long-running case said: "We are proud to announce the fifth settlement reached this year, now having obtained well over three quarters of a billion dollars in compensation from 25 different airlines for class members harmed by this seven year cartel."

In May, China Airlines and Cathay Pacific settled for US$90 million and US$65 million respectively.

According to the law firm nearly half of the original defendants "have now pled guilty to a conspiracy to fix the price of shipping goods by air to and from the United States". Hausfeld says Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, EVA, Nippon Cargo Airlines, Polar Air Cargo and its parent Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, are yet to settle.

The civil suit follows a November 2010 fine of over €799 million by the European Commission on 11 airlines it claimed operated a cargo cartel between 1999 and 2006. The Commission said the group - Air Canada, Air France-KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Cargolux, Japan Airlines, LAN Chile, Martinair, SAS, Singapore Airlines and Qantas - agreed to fix fuel and security surcharges and apply them to freight shipments.

As part of its investigation Lufthansa (and its subsidiary Swiss) received full immunity from fines under the Commission's whistleblower program as the German airline was the first to provide information about the alleged cartel.

Announcing the fines in 2010 an apparently outraged competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said: "It is deplorable that so many major airlines coordinated their pricing to the detriment of European businesses and European consumers. With today's decision the Commission is sending a clear message that it will not tolerate cartel behaviour."

Competition authorities in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa and Switzerland have also conducted air cargo anti-cartel investigations with similar financial results.

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