Chevron Corp. agreed to pay $48 million to settle class-action lawsuits by California consumers over claims that Unocal Corp., which Chevron acquired in 2005, misled regulators about pending patents it held on technology for making cleaner-burning gasoline.
The Federal Trade Commission sued Unocal in 2003, alleging that it misled California regulators after the state adopted clean-air standards. Unocal failed to disclose that it had patents pending on the technology needed by refiners under the new rules, the agency alleged. Consumers later filed their own lawsuits.
"Unocal's anti-competitive conduct caused substantial harm to consumers of gasoline due to increased retail prices for reformulated gasoline in California," lawyers for the plaintiffs said in court filings.
The regulator dropped its suit as part of a 2005 agreement approving Chevron's $20-billion acquisition of Unocal. Chevron agreed to stop enforcing the patents.
Chevron denied wrongdoing as part of the new agreement, according to documents filed July 21 in federal court in Los Angeles. A hearing for preliminary approval is set for Aug. 11.
Chevron did not immediately comment.