PHILADELPHIA -- The nation's two largest waste-hauling companies have agreed to pay $50 million to settle class-action suits filed by customers who accused the companies of price-fixing.
Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., of Houston, will pay $30.5 million as part of the agreement, and Waste Management Inc., of Oak Brook, Ill., will pay $19.5 million, according to documents filed yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia.
U.S. District Court Judge Louis C. Bechtle has granted preliminary approval of the settlement, which includes legal fees of as much as 25 percent, or $12.5 million, for 10 law firms representing plaintiffs in the case. Final approval of the agreement awaits the outcome of a hearing before Bechtle on Dec. 14.
Steven A. Asher, an attorney for the Philadelphia firm of Kohn, Savett, Klein & Graf, which represents the lead plaintiff in the case, said notices of the settlement went out on Monday to about 650,000 customers of the two waste-hauling companies.
Six suits requesting class-action status were filed in 1987, accusing BFI and Waste Management of violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act through a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers and rig bids for contracts to remove trash and other waste.
The suits, which were later consolidated, allege that the zTC
violations occurred from Jan. 1, 1978, through June 30, 1987. Customers, primarily businesses, who paid for containerized waste removal provided by the companies between those dates are eligible to share in the settlement proceeds.
Also named as defendants in the cases are Waste Management of North America Inc and Waste Management Partners Inc., subsidiaries of Waste Management Inc.
BFI operates in at least 41 states and had revenues in 1989 of $2.55 billion. Waste Management operates in at least 37 states and had revenues of $4.46 billion last year.
Settlement money from BFI will go to customers nationwide whose claims are approved. Waste Management's payments will go to customers in 10 metropolitan areas or regions.