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Judge drops Florida Antitrust cement conspiracy, dismisses six defendants

By Don Marsh

U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga has ordered “In Re Florida Cement and Concrete Antitrust Litigation” plaintiffs to amend consolidated complaints by centering on four defendants and a timeframe from mid-2008 forward. The parameters are a far cry from an originally alleged, price-fixing and market-allocation conspiracy the Sunshine State’s major cement, ready mixed and concrete block operators purportedly effected from at least 2000.

In an order responding to an amended motion to dismiss defendants entered in mid-August, Judge Altonaga finds that plaintiffs’ allegations “do not permit the Court to plausibly infer the alleged conspiracy involved the cement market.” That observation would appear to factor heavily into her dismissing from the case defendants Continental Florida Materials, Cemex Materials LLC, Cemex Construction Materials Florida LLC, Suwannee American Cement, Preferred Materials Inc., and Votorantim Cementos North America (VCNA).

The motion to dismiss especially challenged the plausibility of a cement conspiracy following the early-summer withdrawal of defendants Lafarge North America and Holcim (US) Inc. Defense counsel contended that the absence of cement conspiracy undermined plaintiffs’ allegations of a conspiracy in ready mixed and concrete block. Original October–November 2009 complaints leading to consolidated District Court action earlier this year tied an alleged concrete conspiracy to success of an alleged cement conspiracy.

Per the judge’s order, “In Re Florida Cement and Concrete” amended complaints for Direct Purchaser (mainly independent concrete producers) and Indirect Purchaser (contractors and developers) plaintiffs are to be confined to a) Cemex Inc., Florida Rock, Prestige AB Management and Tarmac America; and, b) allegations of ready mixed concrete activity around the mid-2008 arrival of a Prestige executive from VCNA parent Votorantim Cementos.