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UP, BNSF not going to be railroaded

Companies rail against Oxbow's antitrust lawsuit that alleges price-fixing.

Union Pacific Railroad (UP), BNSF Railway Co. and other railroad companies have come under fire from Oxbow Corp. for violating federal antitrust laws through price-fixing and collusion with other train lines.

The lawsuit, filed last Tuesday by the mining and energy giant, asserts that UP, BNSF and the other companies, CSX Corp. Inc. and Norfolk Southern Corp., conspired to establish elevated fuel surcharges and nixed the negotiation of long-term deals with customers.

UP bit back against the claims with vitriolic comments regarding the Oxbow’s longstanding threats against the railroad to bring litigation unless it acceded to Oxbow's demands for commercial concessions. Not only did UP "vigorously" deny the allegations that it violated antitrust laws or fix prices, but said in a statement that many of Oxbow's assertions about UP's fuel surcharge practices paraphrase previous litigation against UP.

"Oxbow’s lawsuit is a grab bag of accusations that mischaracterizes Union Pacific’s actions and efforts to compete fiercely for rail transportation business," the company wrote in a statement. "Many of those accusations appear to simply repeat allegations made in a current Surface Transportation Board proceeding on rail competition. As Union Pacific has said in that proceeding and will demonstrate in response to Oxbow, we have made all decisions relating to competing for rail business and pricing our services to reflect the value they provide to our many customers, including coal customers like Oxbow, independently and in full compliance with the law."

BNSF has taken a slightly less defensive tack than its counterpart, but also reinforces that it complies with all antitrust laws and has neither conspired nor colluded with UP or any other railroad company regarding Oxbow or other customers. The railroad also asserts that the lawsuit is mainly about Oxbow's troubled relationship with UP, which BNSF repeatedly points out is one of the company's direct competitors.

"While styled an antitrust case, this appears to actually be a routine commercial dispute between Oxbow and Union Pacific regarding a mine in Colorado that is not served by BNSF," the company said in a statement. "Oxbow's complaint contains many factual errors and misleading statements about the rail transportation market, and repeats baseless accusations that BNSF has already refuted in the ongoing fuel surcharge litigation and in a proceeding before the Surface Transportation Board. The new allegations Oxbow makes are solely related to its commercial relationship with Union Pacific. BNSF does not believe that an antitrust suit against BNSF is the appropriate manner for Oxbow to resolve its commercial dispute with UP."

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