Legal challenge starts for LME, Goldman on aluminium storage

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 August, 2013, 11:34am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 August, 2013, 11:34am

The London Metal Exchange and Goldman Sachs have been named as co-defendants in a US class-action lawsuit alleging anticompetitive behaviour in aluminium warehousing, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEx) said.

Goldman last week tried to diffuse years of frustration over long waiting times and inflated prices at metals warehouses across the world, by offering immediate access to aluminium for end users holding metal at its Metro warehouses.

Criticism of banks that own commodity assets and trade raw materials has ratcheted up in recent weeks, with the US Department of Justice starting a preliminary probe into the metals warehousing industry, sources said.

Britain’s financial watchdog is also investigating the LME’s warehousing system.

The lawsuit alleges “anticompetitive and monopolistic behaviour in the warehousing market in connection with aluminium prices”, LME owner HKEx said in a statement on Sunday.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, filed on August 1 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is Superior Extrusion - an end user of aluminium.

“LME management’s initial assessment is that the suit is without merit and LME will contest it vigorously,” HKEx said.

Customers and US lawmakers have accused Goldman and other warehouse owners of artificially inflating waiting times to boost rents for warehouse owners and lift metal prices.

“We believe this suit is without merit and we intend to vigorously contest it,” a Goldman Sachs spokesman said. “I would also note that aluminium prices are down 40 per cent from their peak in 2006,” he said.

Goldman President Gary Cohn told CNBC television on Wednesday that no consumers had stepped forward to take up the offer.

London Metal Exchange aluminium for three months delivery closed on Friday at US$1,809 per tonne.

Warehouse owners and outgoing LME chief executive Martin Abbott have said complaints over long lines are unjustified, arguing there is no shortage of metal.