Valassis Wins $300 Mil. in Case vs. News Corp Unit

NEW YORK A Michigan trial court jury today awarded Valassis, a major player in the inserts and coupon business, $300 million in its lawsuit against competitor News America Marketing, a unit of News Corp.

News America said it would appeal.

The trial was held in Wayne County Circuit Court before Judge Michael F. Sapala.

Valassis claimed unfair competition and tortious interference by News America. The jury’s verdict found News America liable on both counts.
 
“We are pleased with the jury’s verdict,” said Valassis CEO Alan Schultz. “Furthermore, I am very proud of the efforts of our employees who have been competing on this uneven playing field for nearly a decade.”

Valassis has additional suits pending against News America in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, asserting anti-trust violations of the Sherman Act; and in the Supreme Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, raising claims under California’s Cartwright, Unfair Competition and Unfair Practices Acts.

In a statement that also indicated the company would appeal, News America president Chris Mixon said: “We are disappointed with today’s decision, which rewards a company that turned to litigation as its business strategy rather than compete.”

Mixon asserted that the jury was “hampered by the court’s decision not to allow a key piece of information to be introduced: the legal analysis by the Federal Trade Commission that Valassis had made ‘an effort to induce collusion’ when it announced its new pricing policy in a public investor call. This information would have shown that this lawsuit was merely part of a larger strategy to get News America Marketing to raise its prices, a move that would have affected both our clients and their consumers by reducing the number of coupons available — a consequence that would be extremely unfortunate in this economy.”