Despite settling with a dozen of the 15 plaintiffs, the $23 billion class-action antitrust lawsuit against Sempra Energy and two subsidiaries continues in San Diego - - for at least the time being. On October 29, three days after opening statements in the price-fixing trial began, Sempra announced it had settled with some plaintiffs, leaving Compton-based aluminum manufacturer Continental Forge and the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach the only ones pursuing the case. However, those remaining entities, mainly Continental Forge, represent the vast majority of individuals in the case. The settling plaintiffs were part of the consolidated case, but not part of an initial class of Ventura County natural gas customers and Southern California Edison ratepayers currently being represented in the San Diego trial. Thus, they must sue individually for any damages because they are not parties to the class-action lawsuit. The settlements represent "a very small part" of the case, Steve Baum, Sempra chief executive officer, told the financial community November 2. He said they represented a "fraction" of the hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves the company has set aside for litigation. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, however, the L.A. Times reported the settlements were over $4.6 million. Sempra and subsidiaries San Diego Gas & Electric and SoCal Gas are accused of conspiracy and price fixing. The case revolves around a 1996 meeting at a Phoenix hotel where executives from the companies and El Paso Corp. allegedly conspired to take advantage of the unregulated aspects of the natural gas and electricity markets. El Paso agreed to a $1.6 billion settlement with the plaintiffs in 2003. Even as it settled with 12 of the plaintiffs, Sempra continued to deny the charges against it. In a written statement, Sempra executive vice-president and general counsel Javade Chaudhri said that "the allegations involved in this case are simply false and, as part of this agreement, Sempra Energy and our affiliate companies expressly deny any wrongdoing." The plaintiffs that settled include the county of Los Angeles; the cities of Burbank, Culver City, Glendale, Upland, and Vernon; the county of San Bernardino; Edgington Oil; the Imperial Irrigation District; the World Oil Corporation; Demenno\/Kerdoon, a Compton-based hazardous waste disposal company; and Lunday-Thagard, a Los Angeles?area oil company. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said that the settlement agreement will not affect ratings for Sempra Energy or its affiliates. Nor should it materially affect Sempra's balance sheet or cash flows. Baum said the case represents "a risk to be managed." Sempra also announced that the company increased its amount of legal reserves by $189 million in the third quarter alone.