Gibson Guitars Involved In Price Fixing
By Brian Reisinger Staff writer Nashville Business
Gibson Guitar Corp. is embroiled in a
series of lawsuits accusing the Nashville manufacturer and various other
organizations of rigging prices across the country.
Gibson is a defendant in at least five lawsuits filed in California and
Washington D.C., part of a spate of legal action dating back to last year that
targets industry groups, according to court records.
The suits, listed under various defendants who bought guitars in recent years,
allege that the National Association of Music Merchants, an industry group, held
discussions at meetings of manufacturers and retailers encouraging cooperation
among competitors to artificially boost prices. Plaintiffs’ attorneys say that’s
a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
“The Sherman Act was enacted to promote competition (in) the U.S. market,
because competition provides consumers with the best price possible,” said
Hollis Salzman, a partner at New York law firm Labaton Sucharow, which is
representing plaintiff Craig Kennedy.
The suits focus largely on national instrument retailer Guitar Center, as well
as the association, but Gibson and fellow manufacturers Fender and Yamaha appear
as co-defendants. Caroline Galloway, a spokeswoman for Gibson, could not be
reached for comment.
The industry association, however, denies violating the Sherman Act or other
laws, according to attorney Paul Cuomo of the Washington D.C. law firm Howrey
LLP. He said the association was unable to comment further because of the
pending litigation, including on whether it hosted discussions as described in
Statements by the association since September, however, have said the suits are
without merit and contain misinformation about the association and its members.
“They are a detriment to the music industry, to music makers and to music lovers
everywhere,” the association said in a September statement.
The lawsuits are widespread, whether legitimate or frivolous. Scott Robertson, a
spokesman with the industry group, said he was aware of nearly 30 lawsuits
making similar allegations.
Some stem from a Federal Trade Commission investigation which ended with a 2009
agreement between the government and the industry group. The group agreed not to
in any way encourage the sharing of price information or other cooperation on
such matters, according to the agreement, which stipulates that it is not an
admission of guilt.
Authorities are in the process of consolidating the various allegations into one
class-action lawsuit, for pre-trial proceedings in California, attorneys said.
Read more: Gibson Guitar, others accused of price-fixing - Nashville Business