April 14, 2004
ANNOUNCED IN LAWSUIT ALLEGING BID-RIGGING CONSPIRACY AT POSTAGE
Restitution Fund to Be Distributed
to Harmed Sellers of Stamp Collections
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today announced
settlements with ten defendants and four other individuals of an
antitrust lawsuit that alleged that stamp dealers conspired for
a period of nearly 20 years to rig bids at stamp auctions. One
of the major stamp auction houses in the United States is Matthew
Bennett, Inc. in Towson.
created a restitution fund of over $700,000, which will be distributed
to sellers of stamps at auctions who may have
been injured by the defendants’ conspiracy. Matthew Bennett,
Inc. and the other auction houses suffered reduced commissions
because of the conspiracy and will also be able to recover from
the settlement fund.
The settlements resolve a lawsuit filed in June of 2001 by Curran
and the Attorneys General of New York 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 through
which they obtained illegal profits at the expense of individuals,
companies, and estates that sold stamps, including large collections,
in the complaint, to carry out the stamp scheme, which lasted
from 1979 to June of 1997, the conspiracy’s members,
who called themselves “The Ring”, 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. The Ring operated at auctions at Matthew
Bennett in 1996 and 1997 that led to losses by stamp consignors
of over $350,000.
“This office is dedicated to wiping out unlawful bidding
practices wherever we discover schemes to cheat consumers, businesses
or the State,” Curran said. “Any person who does business
in Maryland must obey the law.”
Defendant Feldman did not answer the suit, and the Attorneys General
have obtained a default judgment against him of over $4 million.
If the settlements
receive final approval by the court, the funds obtained will
be used to compensate individuals harmed by the conspiracy.
The Attorneys General of the three States will notify those harmed
by the defendants’ misconduct of their right to make claims,
and will notify other sellers of stamps at auction during the relevant
period that they may also seek to recover from the fund. The settling
defendants also agreed to the entry of a court order barring practices
like those alleged in the suit.