PITTSTON TWP. — A class-action lawsuit accusing Benco Dental of conspiring with two other dental-supply distributors has been settled, according to a statement issued Thursday by the Pittston Township-based company.
Reports say one of the parties involved will be paying out tens of millions of dollars. But the exact settlement terms for Benco remain unclear.
The suit, initially filed in February 2016, accused the company of scheming with Patterson Companies Inc., of Minnesota, and Henry Schein Inc., of New York, to falsely inflate prices by pressuring dentists to not shop with cheaper distributors.
The three companies combined make up 80 percent of the dental-supplies market.
In Benco’s statement, it maintains it did nothing wrong, in spite of reaching the settlement.
“While we continue to believe that the lawsuit’s claims are without merit, settlement allows us to avoid the time, expense and inherent uncertainty of litigation,” a company spokesperson wrote. “In agreeing to the settlement, Benco made no admission of liability. We can now refocus our efforts on what we do best: driving dentistry forward.”
While Benco made no reference to the amount it would be paying in the settlement, New York-based Newsday is reporting that Henry Schein is expected to pay out $38.5 million.
Schein also told Newsday that co-defendant Patterson Companies was expected to settle. Bloomberg reported that Patterson’s stock price tumbled after Henry Schein’s announcement of the settlement.
The suit, initially filed by Dr. Sander I. White, a Delaware County dentist, claims the anti-competitive actions of Benco and the other companies began in at least February 2012.
In April 2015, Benco consented to a $300,000 judgment in a Texas lawsuit that involved similar accusations.
The Texas Dental Association (or TDA) claimed Benco and its partners conspired to boycott the TDA’s 2014 annual meeting in attempts to stifle a new distributor. Benco similarly made no admission of wrongdoing in that case, and the $300,000 paid was to the state of Texas to cover legal fees.
Benco Dental has long been a fixture in Luzerne County, initially opened as a single-room office in downtown Wilkes-Barre in 1930. Since then, the company has grown to be the largest privately owned dental distributor in the nation.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan