Dental distributors move to settle 2016 antitrust litigation

2018 08 30 18 07 7208 Settlement 400

The dental industry's biggest distributors are close to settling class-action litigation charging them with trying to freeze out competitors. One firm, Benco Dental, has already announced a settlement, while two other firms, Henry Schein and Patterson Companies, stated separately that they have set aside millions of dollars in anticipation of the case being settled.

The class-action lawsuit (In Re Dental Supplies Antitrust Litigation) was filed in March 2016 and focused on an alleged agreement between Schein, Patterson, and Benco to fix prices, allocate customers, and foreclose competitors by boycotting manufacturers, state dental associations, and others that deal with defendants' competitors. The lawsuit combined 33 separate lawsuits that were filed in January and February 2016.

Henry Schein and Benco separately stated that there was no admission of liability.

While Benco did not release the amount of the agreement in principle, both Henry Schein and Patterson issued statements concerning settlement discussions.

“In agreeing to the settlement, we're able to dedicate all efforts to our customer-focused mission.”
— Chuck Cohen, managing director, Benco

Henry Schein expects to record a charge of $38.5 million pretax on the company's third-quarter 2018 results related to the lawsuit. Patterson announced a pretax reserve of $28.3 million relating to the lawsuit in the company's first-quarter 2019 results.

The settlement allows Benco to move ahead, noted Chuck Cohen, the company's managing director, in a statement to

"In agreeing to the settlement, we're able to dedicate all efforts to our customer-focused mission," Cohen stated.

Stanley Bergman, chairman of the board and CEO of Henry Schein, stated that it was in the best interests of his company to settle the lawsuit.

"We categorically and emphatically deny any wrongdoing, and we have made a business decision in the best interests of the company to engage in settlement discussions to avoid long, distracting litigation and the additional use of resources," Bergman stated.

This settlement is a separate matter to the lawsuit brought against the same companies by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. That case is scheduled to go to trial in October 2018.