Settlements Announced In Lawsuit Alleging Bid-rigging Conspiracy At Postage Stamp Auctions

New York Attorney General Spitzer today announced settlements with ten defendants and three other individuals in an antitrust lawsuit that alleged that stamp dealers conspired for a period of nearly 20 years to rig bids at stamp auctions. The settlements created a restitution fund of over $680,000, which will be distributed to sellers of stamps at auction who may have been injured by the defendants' conduct.

The settlements resolve a lawsuit filed in June of 2001 by Spitzer and the Attorneys General of Maryland and California in federal court in New York City. The lawsuit alleged that Anthony Feldman, John Apfelbaum, Earl P.L. Apfelbaum, Inc., Davitt Felder, Davitt Felder, Inc., Stephen Osborne, Dana Okey, Etienne de Cherisey, Kees Quirijns, and Lewis Berg participated in a conspiracy known as "the Ring," through which they obtained illegal profits at the expense of individuals, companies, and estates that sold stamps, including large collections, at auction.

To carry out the scheme, which lasted from 1979 to June of 1997, the conspiracy's members conducted a secret auction before the public bidding, and agreed that only the winner of the secret auction would bid on the stamps at the public auction. The other ring members then agreed to withhold bids, and were compensated by the winning conspirator after the auction through an elaborate system of pay-offs. These pay-offs typically totaled thousands of dollars per auction.

"This case represents an important victory over those who enriched themselves through collusive conduct, instead of fair competition," Sptizer said. "We can distribute substantial damages to the conspiracy's victims - those who were deprived of the fair value of their merchandise by the dealers' illegal scheme."

The settling defendants also agreed to the entry of a court order barring them from contributing to or engaging in practices like those alleged in the suit.

If the settlements receive final approval by the court, the funds obtained will be used to compensate individuals harmed by the conspiracy. The New York Attorney General's office plans to notify known individuals who were harmed by the defendants' misconduct of their right to make claims, and other sellers of stamps at auction during the relevant period may also seek to recover from the fund. Further information on the settlements are included in an attachment on the website of the New York Attorney General, www.ag.ny.gov.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General David Weinstein, James Yoon, and Robert Hubbard of the Antitrust Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jay Himes. Zachary Weiss, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, and Ken Dreifach, Chief of the Internet Bureau, assisted in the investigation.

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