The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear appeals by units of Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Chevron Corp. in a case that might limit price-fixing lawsuits against joint ventures.
The companies want the court to block a lawsuit accusing them of using two joint ventures -- which were formed in 1998 and merged the retail and refinery businesses of Shell Oil Co. and Texaco Inc. -- to illegally raise prices charged to service stations. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the suit, on behalf of 23,000 station owners, could go forward.
The central question in the case is whether a joint venture should be treated like a unified business, and thereby immune from claims that its units conspired to fix prices, or like two separate companies. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit took the latter view.