Contingent assets and liabilities
In June 2010, Philips filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Zoll Medical Corporation claiming that its defibrillator related patents were infringed by Zoll’s Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) products. Zoll filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement by Philips’ Advanced Life Support (ALS) products and a method for testing defibrillator electrodes.
In December 2013, the liability phase of the Zoll lawsuit was tried before a jury in the United States District Court for the District Massachusetts. Philips and Zoll were both held to infringe each other’s patents. Philips expects that it will result in a net difference in favor of Philips. The Zoll liability judgment is now pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). Resolution of the amount ultimately owed to Philips in the Zoll lawsuit is contingent upon both the CAFC affirming the December 2013 jury decision on liability (expected in the second half of 2015) and the subsequent damages trial (expected to take place during the first half of 2016).
In 1996, CIEM (Labor Union of Manaus) representing, amongst other companies Philips Brazil, filed a fiscal claim against Manaus Free Trade Zone Superintendence (SUFRAMA), in order to obtain a judicial declaration of the illegality and unconstitutionality of the Public Price tax, charged by SUFRAMA. The Lower Court ruled favorable for Philips. In September 2007, Philips requested the Settlement of Declaratory Judgment, in order to refund the amounts unduly paid to SUFRAMA during 1992 to 1999. In August 2011, a ruling was issued to approve Philips credit for the amount of EUR 36 million. The estimated amount as of year-end 2014 is EUR 43 million, the increase explained by interest.
In 2014 an agreement was made with an external investor under which agreement Philips received upfront EUR 14 million in cash and has the right to receive (“upward potential”) future amounts depending on a favorable outcome of the case and the timeline in which this outcome is reached (EUR 5 million – EUR 1.7 million). In case Philips will lose the case there is no requirement to repay the upfront amount (no recourse basis).
Philips’ policy is to provide guarantees and other letters of support only in writing. Philips does not stand by other forms of support. At the end of 2014, the total fair value of guarantees recognized on the balance sheet amounted to less than EUR 1 million (December 31, 2013: less than EUR 1 million). Remaining off-balance-sheet business and credit-related guarantees provided on behalf of third parties and associates decreased by EUR 13 million during 2014 to EUR 21 million. Off-balance-sheet guarantees for year end 2013 were restated from EUR 333 million to EUR 34 million to reflect guarantees related to associates and third-party only.
The Company and its subsidiaries are subject to environmental laws and regulations. Under these laws, the Company and/or its subsidiaries may be required to remediate the effects of certain chemicals on the environment.
The Company and certain of its group companies and former group companies are involved as a party in legal proceedings, regulatory and other governmental proceedings, including discussions on potential remedial actions, relating to such matters as competition issues, commercial transactions, product liability, participations and environmental pollution.
Since the ultimate disposition of asserted claims and proceedings and investigations cannot be predicted with certainty, an adverse outcome could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s consolidated financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Provided below are disclosures of the more significant cases:
Cathode-Ray Tubes (CRT)
On November 21, 2007, the Company announced that competition law authorities in several jurisdictions had commenced investigations into possible anticompetitive activities in the Cathode-Ray Tubes, or CRT industry. On December 5, 2012, the European Commission issued a decision imposing fines on (former) CRT manufacturers including the Company. The European Commission imposed a fine of EUR 313 million on the Company and a fine of EUR 392 million jointly and severally on the Company and LG Electronics, Inc. In total a payable of EUR 509 million was recognized in 2012 and the fine was paid in the first quarter of 2013. The Company appealed the decision of the European Commission and in November 2014 the Company presented its defense at a Hearing with the General Court.
Subsequent to the public announcement of these investigations in 2007, certain Philips Group companies were named as defendants in class action antitrust complaints by direct and indirect purchasers of CRTs filed in various federal district courts in the United States. These actions allege anticompetitive conduct by manufacturers of CRTs and seek treble damages on a joint and several liability basis under federal antitrust law, as well as various state antitrust and unfair competition laws. These actions have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. In addition, sixteen individual plaintiffs, principally large retailers of CRT products who opted-out of the direct purchaser class, filed separate complaints against the Company and other defendants based on the same substantive allegations as the putative class plaintiff complaints. These cases also are consolidated for pre-trial purposes with the putative class actions in the Northern District of California.
In 2012 a settlement agreement was approved between the Company and counsel for direct purchaser plaintiffs fully resolving all claims of the direct purchaser class. Also, the Company recently reached a settlement with the indirect purchaser class, subject to court approval, that would fully resolve all claims of the indirect purchaser class and release all claims of the indirect purchaser class. The Company reached in the past year settlements with a number of the individual plaintiffs resolving all claims by those retailers on a global basis. The settlements reached to date represent the majority of CRT sales attributed to the Company by the individual plaintiffs. Several of the remaining individual plaintiff cases are scheduled for trial in 2015, with the remainder expected to be transferred back to their original venues for further proceedings. Trial dates in these other cases have not yet been set.
In addition, the state attorneys general of California, Florida, Illinois, Oregon and Washington filed actions against Philips and other defendants seeking to recover damages on behalf of the states and, acting as parens patriae, their consumers. In 2012 the Florida complaint was withdrawn. In 2013 a settlement agreement was reached with the state attorney general of California that has been approved subject to review by the California Court of Appeal. The actions brought by the state attorneys general of Illinois, Oregon and Washington are pending in the respective state courts of the plaintiffs. The Oregon Attorney General action has been set for trial in July 2016. Trial dates for the Washington and Illinois actions have not been set and there is no timetable for resolution of these cases.
In 2007, certain Philips Group companies were also been named as defendants, in proposed class proceedings in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, Canada, along with numerous other participants in the industry. After years of inactivity, in 2014, plaintiffs in the Ontario action initiated the class certification proceedings with class certification hearings scheduled for late April 2015.
Other civil claims related to CRT
In 2014, the Company was named as a defendant in a consumer class action lawsuit filed in Israel in which damages are claimed against several defendants based on alleged anticompetitive activities in the CRT industry. In addition, an electronics manufacturer filed a claim against the Company and several co-defendants with a court in the Netherlands, also seeking compensation for the alleged damage sustained as a result from the alleged anticompetitive activities in the CRT industry. The Company has received indications that more civil claims may be filed in other jurisdictions in due course.
Except for what has been provided or accrued for as disclosed in note (19) Provisions and note (21) Accrued liabilities, the Company has concluded that due to the considerable uncertainty associated with certain of these matters, on the basis of current knowledge, potential losses cannot be reliably estimated with respect to these matters. These investigations and litigation could have a materially adverse effect on the Company’s consolidated financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Optical Disc Drive (ODD)
On October 27, 2009, the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice confirmed that it had initiated an investigation into possible anticompetitive practices in the Optical Disc Drive (ODD) industry. Philips Lite-On Digital Solutions Corp. (PLDS), a joint venture owned by the Company and Lite-On IT Corporation, as an ODD market participant, is included in this investigation. PLDS and the Company have been accepted under the Corporate Leniency program of the US Department of Justice and have continued to cooperate with the authorities in these investigations. On this basis, the Company expects to be immune from governmental fines.
In July 2012, the European Commission issued a Statement of Objections addressed to (former) ODD suppliers including the Company and PLDS. The European Commission granted the Company and PLDS immunity from fines, conditional upon the Company’s continued cooperation. The Company responded to the Statement of Objections both in writing and at an oral hearing. The Company and PLDS are also subject to similar investigations outside the US and Europe relating to the ODD market. Where relevant, they are cooperating with the authorities.
Subsequent to the public announcement of these investigations in 2009, the Company, PLDS and Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions USA, Inc. (PLDS USA), among other industry participants, were named as defendants in numerous class action antitrust complaints filed in various federal district courts in the United States. These actions allege anticompetitive conduct by manufacturers of ODDs and seek treble damages on behalf of direct and indirect purchasers of ODDs and products incorporating ODDs. These complaints assert claims under federal antitrust law, as well as various state antitrust and unfair competition laws and may involve joint and several liability among the named defendants. These actions have been consolidated for pre-trial proceedings in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs’ applications for certification of both the direct and indirect purchaser classes were denied on October 3, 2014. The representatives of these putative classes tried appealing the denial of class certification to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. However, the Ninth Circuit declined this request to appeal.
In addition, various individual entities have filed separate actions against the Company, PLDS, PLDS USA and other defendants. The allegations contained in these individual complaints are substantially identical to the allegations in the direct purchaser class complaints. All of these matters have been consolidated into the action in the Northern District of California for pre-trial purposes and discovery is being coordinated. The Company intends to vigorously defend all of the civil actions in the US courts.
Also, in June 2013, the State of Florida filed a separate complaint in the Northern District of California against the Company, PLDS, PLDS USA and other defendants containing largely the same allegations as the class and individual complaints. Florida seeks to recover damages sustained in its capacity as a buyer of ODDs and, in its parens patriae capacity, on behalf of its citizens. The defendants’ motion to dismiss has been denied and Philips filed an answer to the complaint. This case has been joined with the ODD class action cases in the Northern District of California for pre-trial purposes.
The Company and certain Philips Group companies have also been named as defendants, in proposed class proceedings in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada along with numerous other participants in the industry. These complaints assert claims against various ODD manufacturers under federal competition laws as well as tort laws and may involve joint and several liability among the named defendants. Philips intends to vigorously defend these lawsuits. Plaintiffs in the British Columbia case have proceeded with their application to certify that proceeding as a class action. The hearing was held in January 2015 and the Court’s decision is pending.
Due to the considerable uncertainty associated with these matters, on the basis of current knowledge, the Company has concluded that potential losses cannot be reliably estimated with respect to these matters. These matters could have a materially adverse effect on the Company’s consolidated financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Consumer Electronics products and small Domestic Appliances
Several companies, amongst which the Company, are involved in an investigation by the European Commission into alleged restrictions of online sales of consumer electronic products and small domestic appliances. This investigation commenced in December 2013 when Philips was one of the companies that was inspected by officials of the European Commission. Philips is fully cooperating with the European Commission.
Due to the considerable uncertainty associated with this matter, on the basis of current knowledge, the Company has concluded that potential losses cannot be reliably estimated with respect to these matters. This investigation could have a materially adverse effect on the Company’s consolidated financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
On October 1, 2014 a jury awarded USD 467 million (EUR 366M) to Masimo Corporation (Masimo) in the patent infringement lawsuit by Masimo in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware against Philips.
The decision by the jury is part of extensive litigation, which started in 2009, between Masimo and Philips involving several claims and counterclaims related to a large number of patents in the field of pulse oximetry. The lawsuit filed by Masimo alleges that certain Philips products infringe certain Masimo patents. In response to these claims, Philips filed its answer and counterclaims alleging infringement of a number of Philips’ patents and violation of US antitrust laws and patent misuse by Masimo. The Court has decided to handle the litigation in several phases, the first phase of which was tried in September 2014. The October 2014 decision by the jury is associated with this first phase of the litigation. Philips intends to pursue all avenues of appeal of this verdict at both the District and Appellate courts in the US.
Due to the considerable uncertainty associated with the next phases of this litigation, including the impact of the appeals thereon, the Company has concluded that, on the basis of current knowledge, potential losses cannot be reliably estimated with respect to the remaining phases of the litigation. The outcome of the litigation could have a materially adverse effect on the company’s consolidated financial position, results of operations and cash flows.