A federal district court judge in Kansas City has allowed a series of class action antitrust suits against AT&T to proceed. Those suits involve claims that AT&T had engaged in parallel pricing conduct, resulting in an estimated $890 million in consumer overcharges. At the heart of the case are accusations that AT&T conspired with Sprint Nextel and with MCI Corp. to inflate line items on long distance subscriber bills that pertain to Universal Service Fund (USF) recovery. (MCI, which was ultimately acquired by Verizon Communications, was never a party to the lawsuit, and Sprint Nextel agreed to settle last year for $30 million.) According to the class action plaintiffs, the alleged price fixing behavior took place between August 2001 and March 2003, at which time the FCC barred carriers from passing USF recovery fees to their customers that exceed the prescribed federal USF contribution factor. Although AT&T succeeded in convincing U.S. District Court Judge John Lungstrum to dismiss antitrust claims covering the period after March 31, 2003, Lungstrum decreed that the record for August 2001 through March 2003 “contains evidence that tends to exclude the possibility that AT&T, Sprint, and MCI acted independently.” In support of his findings, Lungstrum cited evidence that AT&T and Sprint simultaneously charged residential long distance customers a 9.9% USF surcharge that exceeded the prescribed contribution factor for the period in question. As such, Lungstrum wrote: “this plausibility of noncompetitive behavior combined with the opinions of plaintiff’s experts is sufficient for plaintiffs to withstand summary judgment.”