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U.S. judge allows 3 aluminum price-fixing lawsuits to go forward

March 9 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge overseeing litigation accusing Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co , their warehousing businesses and the London Metal Exchange of conspiring to reduce the supply and increase the price of aluminum will allow for now three groups of plaintiffs to pursue separate lawsuits.

In an order dated March 6, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said she will let direct purchaser plaintiffs, commercial end-user plaintiffs and consumer end-user plaintiffs file their own complaints seeking class-action status, while giving defendants the right to object to those filings.

She also designated co-lead counsel for the respective plaintiff groups:

- For the direct plaintiffs: Grant & Eisenhofer; Lovell Stewart Halebian Jacobson; and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd;

- For the commercial end-user plaintiffs: Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca; Girard Gibbs; and Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check; and

- For the consumer end-user plaintiffs: Finkelstein Thompson; and Strange & Carpenter.

Forrest also appointed nine other law firms to a so-called steering committee for the direct purchaser plaintiffs. She did not appoint similar committees for the other plaintiff groups.

Among the defendants are Goldman affiliates GS Power Holdings LLC and Metro International Trade Services LLC, JPMorgan warehousing affiliate Henry Bath LLC and Baltimore-based warehousing company Pacorini Metals USA LLC.

Defendants had argued last month that the plaintiffs had offered "very little information" about the parameters of the proposed classes, leaving Forrest without enough facts to determine that having three lawsuits was proper.

In December, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated 26 lawsuits filed nationwide over accusations of aluminum price-fixing before Forrest, whom it described as "well-versed in the nuances of complex antitrust litigation."

Last week, an unrelated lawsuit filed in New York accused five other banks of manipulating the London benchmark gold price.

The case is In re: Aluminum Warehousing Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-md-02481.

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