Thomas H Lee escapes collusion suit

The number of private equity firms accused of big rigging buyout deals now stands at seven.

Thomas H Lee Partners has won court dismissal from a long-running lawsuit accusing marquee private equity firms of having colluded by agreeing not to outbid each other on certain buyout deals. 

On Thursday, US district judge Edward Harrington said he was wrong to rule earlier that email correspondence between THL and the remaining seven defendants was evidence of collusion in the attempted takeover of hotel and casino chain Harrah's and food services company Aramark.

Harrington wrote that he now believes THL “acted independently” when submitting takeover bids. A spokesperson for THL declined comment. 

The remaining defendants in the case are Bain Capital Partners, The Blackstone Group , TPG Capital Management, Silver Lake Partners,  The Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the private equity arm of investment bank Goldman Sachs.

In July, Providence Equity Partners and Apollo Global Management were also dismissed from the case. A judge ruled that evidence was lacking that Providence and Apollo colluded with other private equity firms to rig bids and drive down competition for deals. “Apollo acted independently in ‘standing down,’” according to an opinion issued in July by Harrington.

“…the evidence of [Providence’s] involvement in other transactions is insufficient to connect it to the overarching conspiracy,” Harrington wrote in his opinion. 

The suit was filed in December 2007 by individual shareholders in companies that were acquired by the private equity firms, like Freescale Semiconductor. LPs such as the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System and New Profit Sharing Trust joined the shareholders.

See related articles to the right for more detailed coverage of the case.