Rail Freight Fuel Surcharges
For over a decade, Hausfeld has been at the forefront of antitrust litigation over allegations that the nation’s four largest freight railroads - Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, and Norfolk Southern - colluded on fuel surcharges and overcharged customers by billions of dollars collectively.
Most recently, a federal court determined that Hausfeld and its co-counsel had amassed “strong evidence of conspiracy” and that individual litigation (as opposed to class litigation) is the appropriate vehicle to vindicate antitrust claims, which prompted dozens of prominent shippers—many of them household names that rank among the Fortune 500—to hire Hausfeld and file suit to recover damages. In this current phase of litigation, Hausfeld represents a wide range of direct-purchaser plaintiffs on an individual basis, including market leaders from the automotive, energy, food services, logistics, and chemicals sectors, among other affected industries.
Amid this shift, and in a tacit acknowledgement of unfavorable evidence, the defendant railroads sought a novel form of antitrust immunity, pointing to a federal statute that merely permits rail carriers to coordinate, in limited fashion, on specific shipments that require more than one railroad to move goods across the country. Hausfeld responded in force, playing a key role in briefing that outlined the rarity of antitrust immunities and the reasons why federal law could not possibly immunize the conduct alleged here. The Department of Justice, in coordination with the Federal Trade Commission and the Surface Transportation Board, echoed Hausfeld’s arguments in their statement of interest.
At a day-long virtual hearing in August 2020, Hausfeld lawyers presented oral argument detailing the specific evidence of conspiracy and the reasons why that evidence could not satisfy even the defendants’ proposed legal test for immunity. And we won: in February 2021, the Court denied the defendants’ motion in its entirety, noting that the defendants’ “assertions are much too expansive. . . . [A]pplying the statute this broadly would exclude evidence of discussions or agreements involving competing traffic well beyond the bounds of what Congress intended to protect.”
All told, this latest chapter in the litigation, fending off eleventh-hour immunities while taking on new client representations, exemplifies Hausfeld’s tenacious approach to claimant-side antitrust litigation and its ability to advocate seamlessly for its clients.