In July, Partner Alex Roberts was sitting with his family on a plane to Hawaii, and while his kids binged movies, he spent the hours reading transcripts of depositions conducted by another firm for his client, HP Inc.
Roberts' in-flight reading was part of a monthslong effort to get evidence prepared by that firm ready for an October jury trial. The trial was coming in a complex case over allegations that Taiwan-based optical disk drive supplier Quanta Storage Inc. was part of a sweeping price-fixing conspiracy that drove up the cost of components HP used in its computers.
Roberts' co-lead trial counsel, Partner Alistair Dawson, said HP wanted the jury to hold Quanta fully responsible for the damages caused by the scheme, even if it wasn't necessarily the biggest player among the suppliers. Dawson said he emphasized in closing arguments that because HP still uses the same procurement methods that were abused by the conspiracy, it needs to make sure suppliers are playing by the rules.
On October 22, 2019, the jury sent that message, deliberating for less than five hours before finding in HP's favor and awarding it $176 million.
Before the trial team — which also included Associate Garrett Brawley and Paralegal Liz Poirrier — could make its case to the jury, it had to summit a mountain of evidence.
The case's roots go back to 2009, when the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was investigating the optical disk drive market. Major supplier Hitachi-LG Data Storage Inc. — a joint venture between Japan's Hitachi Ltd. and South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. — pled guilty to criminal charges arising from the investigation in 2011, and three of its executives went to prison over their guilty pleas. Quanta was not criminally charged.
Beck Redden was involved when HP sued a host of disk drive suppliers, including Quanta, in Texas federal court in 2013. Shortly thereafter, the cases were transferred to multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of California, where Crowell & Moring LLP took over discovery.
HP, other computer makers, retailers and computer purchasers alleged in that MDL that major disk drive makers were sharing confidential pricing information with each other and making backroom deals when bidding for supply contracts, in order to artificially inflate the prices of the components.
Most of the defendants entered confidential settlement agreements with HP by 2017, including HLDS, Toshiba Corp., Panasonic Corp., Sony Optiarc Inc., NEC Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Only Quanta was left to face trial.
In February 2018, the suit was transferred back to Texas federal court from the MDL, and Beck Redden took the case back the following month.
With trial coming the following year, the team had to sort through 80 videotaped depositions with more than 125 days of testimony and hundreds of exhibits, according to Dawson. More than 3 million documents had been produced in the case, he added.
Dawson said that, thankfully, the key themes of their case were self-evident — that there was a price-fixing conspiracy, and Quanta participated in it — and Crowell & Moring had done an exceptional job building out the record.
But the Beck Redden team still needed to sort through that record and find the best evidence to bring to the jury. This was a monthslong process, spearheaded by Roberts, of reading through deposition transcripts and documents and collecting them into "buckets" that pertained to each major question or theme, according to Dawson.
HP has since asked U.S. District Judge David Hittner to increase its award to $438.6 million, arguing in its brief that it deserves treble damages because of Quanta's intentional violation of the Sherman Act, minus roughly $90 million to offset its settlements with Quanta's co-conspirators. A ruling is expected in the next several weeks, according to Roberts.
Excerpted from Law360. To read the full article, click here.