Northern District Of Georgia Rules On Antitrust State Action Immunity
On May 8, 2019, Judge William M. Ray II of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued an order granting in part and denying in part defendants’ motion to dismiss. SmileDirectClub, LLC, v. Georgia Board of Dentistry, et al., No. 1:18-cv-02328-WMR (D.N.G. 2019). Plaintiff alleged that the Georgia Board of Dentistry (the “Board”) and its individual members (collectively, “defendants”) conspired to exclude non-dentists from participating in the market for orthodontic aligner treatment services in Georgia. The Court found that claims against the Board were barred by sovereign immunity, while claims against individual members of the Board were adequately pled and survived dismissal.
Eastern District Of Michigan Allows Sherman Act Suit Based On Employee No-Poach Agreement To Proceed
On May 24, 2019, Judge Victoria A. Roberts of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied defendant Domino’s Pizza Franchising LLC’s and other related Domino’s corporate entities’ motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiff, an employee of one of defendants’ franchisees, had adequately alleged a no-poach agreement in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Blanton v. Domino’s Pizza Franchising LLC, No. 18-13207 (E.D. Mich. May 24, 2019). The Court also found that plaintiff plausibly pleaded that defendants’ fraudulently concealed their conduct such that the Sherman Act’s four-year statute of limitations was tolled.
Second Circuit Revives Direct Injury Claims In Group Boycott Lawsuit
On May 10, 2019, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in a panel consisting of Judges John M. Walker, Jr., Dennis Jacobs, and Rosemary S. Pooler, affirmed in part and vacated in part a decision by Judge Brian M. Cogan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on antitrust standing. IQ Dental Supply, Inc. v. Henry Schein, Inc., 18-175-cv (2d Cir. May 10, 2019). The court agreed with Judge Cogan that plaintiff, IQ Dental Supply, Inc. (“IQ”), had failed to establish antitrust standing to challenge the alleged boycott of an online distribution portal, SourceOne, Inc. (“SourceOne”), which it used to distribute dental supplies to dental practices nationwide. However, the court found that IQ had pled sufficient facts to establish antitrust standing regarding a boycott of its own business and vacated the district court’s judgment.
In Case Against Major Technology Corporation, United States Supreme Court Holds Mobile Phone Owners Have Antitrust Standing To Bring Claims Against Operator Of Application Store
On May 13, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed a Ninth Circuit decision reversing a California District Court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ antitrust claims on grounds that plaintiffs could not sue defendant because they were not direct purchasers from defendant. The 5-4 majority opinion written by Justice Kavanaugh held that plaintiffs—owners of mobile phones produced and sold by defendant—were direct purchasers because they bought applications directly from defendant’s application store. Thus, as injured buyers under Section 4 of the Clayton Act, plaintiffs were not barred from suing defendant on claims that defendant monopolized the retail market for the sale of its phone applications and exploited this position to overcharge consumers. Apple Inc. v. Pepper, No. 17-204 (U.S. May 13, 2019).
Southern District Of California Denies Motion To Compel Attorney Communications In Price Fixing Action
On May 6, 2019, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California denied plaintiffs’ motions (i) to compel production of attorney-client communications and work product and (ii) to compel additional testimony in a multidistrict litigation over alleged price-fixing in the canned tuna industry. In re Packaged Seafood Prods. Antitrust Litig., No. 15-md-2670 (S.D. Cal. May 6, 2019). In denying the motions, the Court found that the general counsel for one of the defendants (the “Company”) did not waive privilege regarding analysis conducted by the Company’s outside counsel when he testified during his deposition that outside counsel had reviewed the discovery in the case and opined that there was no evidence of price-fixing other than regarding one product—5-ounce cans of tuna.CATEGORY: Price-Fixing
Second Circuit Rejects Bid To Revive Libor Antitrust Suit By Plaintiff Whose Bonds Were Not Tied To Libor
On April 30, 2019, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in a panel consisting of Judges Rosemary S. Pooler, Denny Chin, and Eric N. Vitaliano, affirmed a decision by Judge Paul G. Gardephe of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denying plaintiff’s request for leave to amend its complaint alleging that various banks conspired to manipulate LIBOR. 7 West 57th Street Realty Company, LLC v. Citigroup, Inc., 18-1102-cv (2d Cir. April 30, 2019). The Court agreed with Judge Gardephe that plaintiff, the successor in interest to a real estate developer, lacked antitrust standing to bring suit because it was not an efficient enforcer and that amending the complaint would be futile. The Court also agreed that plaintiff did not allege facts sufficient to state a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”).
Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal In Favor Of Defendant Internet Service Provider By Disconnecting Monopsony And Conspiracy Claims
On April 19, 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Middle District of Pennsylvania’s dismissal of monopsony, antitrust conspiracy, and race discrimination claims by two plaintiff cable installer contractors against defendant, a dominant provider of internet services. Cable Line, Inc. v. Comcast Cable Communications of Pennsylvania, Inc., No. 18-2316 (3d Cir. Apr. 19, 2019). On the antitrust claims, the Third Circuit held that plaintiffs did not adequately allege facts to show that they suffered antitrust injury from the allegedly anticompetitive conduct, that defendant held monopsony power and used it to exclude other buyers of cable installation services, or that defendant had any agreement with the installers it chose as part of its RFP process to restrain trade in the cable installation market. The Third Circuit did, however, suggest that plaintiffs consider a retooled complaint alleging that defendant ties cable installation to its cable services, which may cause higher installation prices and reduce downstream competition.
District Of New Jersey Denies Summary Judgment On Robinson-Patman Rebates Claims
On April 1, 2019, Judge William J. Martini of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment in a Robinson-Patman Act suit. Marjam Supply Co. v. Firestone Building Products Co. LLC, et al., Case No. 2:11-cv-07119 (D.N.J. 2019). The Court found that plaintiff raised triable issues of fact regarding defendants’ selective offering of rebates, discounts, and other financing programs under the Robinson-Patman Act’s price discrimination provisions.
District Of New Jersey Denies Building Materials Manufacturer’s Motion For Summary Judgment In Alleged Price Discrimination Lawsuit
On April 1, 2019, Judge William J. Martini of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied Firestone Building Products Company LLC’s motion for summary judgment on price discrimination claims brought by a building materials distributor. Marjam Supply Co. v. Firestone Bldg. Prod. Co., LLC, No. 2:11-cv-7119, 2019 WL 1451105 (D.N.J. Apr. 2, 2019). Plaintiff alleged that defendant, a manufacturer of building materials, offered its roofing products to several of plaintiff’s competitors (“Favored Distributors”) at terms more favorable than those offered to plaintiff through a variety of non-uniform rebate, discount and financing programs in violation of Sections 2(a) and 2(d) of the Robinson-Patman Act. Plaintiff claimed that due to the disparate terms offered by the manufacturer, Favored Distributors were able to offer the manufacturer’s products to plaintiff’s major customers at lower prices than plaintiff and that it lost significant business as a result.
United States District Court For The Northern District Of California Focuses On Information Sharing To Magnify Anticompetitive Conspiracy In Antitrust Suit Against Telescope Manufacturers
On March 29, 2019, Judge Edward J. Davila of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied a motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiff Orion Telescopes & Binoculars (“Orion”) had sufficiently pled that defendants Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co., Ltd. (“Ningbo”) and Celestron, LLC (“Celestron”) had conspired to divide the market for low- to medium-end telescopes and block a competing manufacturer’s acquisition that would have enabled expansion and broader supply-side competition. Optronic Technologies, Inc., v. Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co., Ltd., No. 16-CV-6370 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 29, 2019). Judge Davila cited plaintiff’s specific allegations of: (a) a division among competitors of the low-end (to Ningbo) and high-end (to Celestron) telescope markets (facilitated in part by a transfer of intellectual property to Ningbo); and (b) Celestron’s advance knowledge of Ningbo’s interest in the merger. Celestron settled prior to the litigation, but Orion and Ningbo will continue into discovery.
United States District Court For The District Of Delaware Dismisses Allegations Of Anticompetitive Drone Pricing
On March 18, 2019, Judge Leonard P. Stark of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed allegations of predatory pricing in the “prosumer” drones market by DJI Technology Co., Ltd. and DJI Europe B.V. (collectively “DJI”). SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. v. Autel Robotics USA LLC, No. 16-706-LPS (D. Del. Mar. 18, 2019). The Court ruled in favor of the DJI plaintiffs, who were defendants in the antitrust counterclaims in the suit, finding that defendants Autel Robotics USA LLC and Autel Aerial Technology Co., Ltd. (collectively “Autel”) did not allege sufficient facts for a plausible predatory pricing claim. In particular, the Court found that Autel failed to show that DJI’s prices were below cost.
Northern District Of California Grants NCAA Athletes Partial Victory In Antitrust Challenge To NCAA Rules
On March 8, 2019, after a bench trial, Judge Claudia Wilkin of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California found that the NCAA’s restrictions on the amount of grants-in-aid and other benefits that universities can provide to student-athletes constitute anticompetitive restraints of trade. In re: National Collegiate Athletic Association Athletic Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation, No. 4:14-md-02541-CW (N.D. Cal. Mar. 8, 2019). Based on this finding, the Court abrogated the NCAA’s limits on “education-related benefits” that its member colleges may provide the student-athletes. However, the Court did not eliminate all restrictions on the benefits that schools may provide to athletes. Instead, using a “less restrictive alternatives” analysis, the Court permitted the NCAA to continue to limit non-education related benefits and compensation, as well as cash payments, to student-athletes.
Southern District Of New York Dismisses CDOR Benchmark Manipulation Complaint In Its Entirety
On March 14, 2019, Judge Analisa Torres of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted defendants’ motion to dismiss a complaint alleging they improperly manipulated the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (“CDOR”) benchmark. Fire & Police Pension Association of Colorado v. Bank of Montreal, et al., Case No. 1:18-cv-00342 (S.D.N.Y Mar. 14, 2019).
D.C. Circuit Holds That DOJ Failed To Prove AT&T/Time Warner Merger Is Anticompetitive
On February 26, 2019, a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of the government’s request for a permanent injunction against the merger of AT&T and Time Warner. The opinion by Judge Judith Rodgers, joined by Judges Robert Wilkins and David Sentelle, rejected the government’s argument that the district court misunderstood and misapplied economic principles and erroneously disregarded testimony by key government witnesses. United States v. AT&T, Inc., Docket No. 1:17-cv-02511 (D.C. Cir. 2019).
Reversing Prior Order, Utah District Court Holds Per Se Rule Applies To Customer Allocation Agreement
On February 21, 2019, Judge David Sam of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah reversed course and found that a per se standard applies to a market allocation agreement among competitors in the heir location services market. Judge Sam initially found that the more lenient rule of reason standard should apply. However, following a recent Tenth Circuit ruling, Judge Sam held it is the form of the agreement—not the type of industry—that compels the appropriate standard of review. United States of America, v. Kemp & Associates, Inc. and Daniel J. Mannix, No. 2:16CR403 DS, 2019 WL 763796 (D. Utah Feb. 21, 2019).
Delaware District Court Dismisses Antitrust Suit Against Lab Testing Company Alleging Conspiracy To Exclude Smaller Lab From Market
On February 14, 2019, Judge Maryellen Noreika of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed a complaint alleging violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Prescient Medicine Holdings, LLC v. Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings et al, No. 1:18-cv-00600 (D. Del. Feb 14. 2019). The complaint was filed by Prescient Medicine Holdings, LLC, a provider of laboratory testing services. Plaintiff alleged that an agreement between a competitor laboratory testing service—Laboratory Corporation of America and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (“LabCorp”)—and a managed care organization—AmeriHealth, Inc. and AmeriHealth Caritas Delaware Inc. (“AmeriHealth”) was a collusive scheme to monopolize the in-network Medicaid market and exclude plaintiff from that market. Judge Noreika held that plaintiff failed to adequately plead antitrust standing and failed to define a relevant market.
Ninth Circuit Reinstates $53 Million Jury Award Against Supplier In “Refusal to Deal” Monopolization Action
On February 8, 2019, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court and reinstated a jury verdict that found a cigar manufacturer liable for attempted monopolization under Section Two of the Sherman Act for various actions it took or refused to take in connection a contract manufacturing relationship with a competitor. Trendsettah USA, Inc. v. Swisher Int’l, Inc., No. 16-56823 (9th Cir. Feb. 8, 2019). The decision is notable in allowing the imposition of Sherman Act liability for conduct that amounted largely to alleged breaches of, and a refusal to renew, a supply contract, and illustrates that potential claims under Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp., 472 U.S. 585 (1985), still pose litigation risks for firms with significant market shares that terminate profitable relationships with their competitors.
The Eastern District Of Michigan Holds That An Arbitration Clause Does Not Apply To Direct Purchasers In A Private Suit Alleging Price-Fixing
On January 29, 2019, the Honorable Judge Marianne O. Battani of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied without a hearing Defendant KYB Corporation’s and KYB America’s (collectively, the “Company”) motion to dismiss all federal antitrust claims because those claims were subject to an arbitration clause. In re Shock Absorbers, Master File No. 12-md-02311 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 29, 2019). In so finding, the Court denied the Company’s 30(b)(1) motion and concluded that the Court had subject matter jurisdiction.
Department Of Justice Seeks To Intervene In No-Poach Class Action To Counter Arguments That Such Agreements Are Per Se Illegal
On January 25, 2019, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division filed a Notice of Intent to File a Statement of Interest in Myrriah Richmond et al. v. Bergey Pullman Inc., et al., No. 2:18-cv-00246, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. The Notice follows a barrage of settlements between fast-food chains and state antitrust enforcers involving the chains’ “no-poach” agreements—that is, agreements between a franchisor and franchisees that restrict the hiring of one franchisee’s employees by another franchisee. The Justice Department’s decision to involve itself in Myrriah Richmond is significant. By emphasizing—as its Notice did—that such franchisor-franchisee no-poach agreements are “vertical restraints” subject to the rule-of-reason (rather than illegal per se, or subject to only a “quick look” analysis of legality), the Justice Department provides analytic clarity and useful guidance as courts address the growing number of actions challenging different variations of no-poach agreements in different factual scenarios.
Middle District Of Florida Limits Statute Of Limitations Tolling Arguments For Alleged Output Restrictions In Milk Market
On January 16, 2019, Judge Brian J. Davis of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued an order granting in part and denying in part defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Southeast Milk, Inc. et al., Case No. 3:15-cv-01143 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 16, 2019). The Court ruled that plaintiffs should not receive equitable tolling of the statute of limitations for fraudulent concealment, that only a limited subset of claims were eligible for class action tolling, and that other theories for the timeliness of plaintiffs’ claims depended on the jury’s determination of the facts.
United States District Court For The Eastern District of New York Rejects One-Sided Market And Single-Brand Market Definitions In Credit Card Antitrust Litigation
On January 14, 2019, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted defendant American Express’ motion for summary judgment as to three of the four relevant markets proposed by the plaintiffs in their antitrust challenge to the “anti-steering” provisions in American Express’s merchant contracts. In re American Express Anti-Steering Rules Antitrust Litigation, No. 11-MD-2221 (NGG) (RER) (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2019). Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in a parallel challenge to the same contractual provisions by the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and several states, Ohio v. American Express Company, 138 S. Ct. 2274 (2018), Judge Garaufis rejected the retail merchant plaintiffs’ proposed product market definitions that were limited to the merchant side of card transactions, i.e., the “one-sided” markets, finding that the Supreme Court’s decision required an examination of competition on both sides of the credit card platform – the cardholder side and the merchant side – i.e., the “two-sided” market. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to limit the relevant product market to American Express card transactions (the “Amex-only market”) because other general purpose credit and charge cards are reasonably interchangeable with American Express cards and therefore in the same relevant product market. American Express did not move for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ two-sided, all general purpose credit card market definition, and the case will proceed to trial on that theory.
Northern District Of California Rejects Claim Of Bi-Coastal Conspiracy To Eliminate Restaurant Tipping
On January 7, 2019, Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California ruled on a motion to dismiss allegations that certain high-end restaurant groups in New York and California had conspired to terminate the practice of tipping in restaurants, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and various state laws. Judge White held that plaintiff’s claims were too speculative to sustain an inference that defendants could — or had any reason to — conspire, and dismissed all claims. Brown v. 140 NM LLC et al., No. 4:17-cv-05782 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 7, 2019).
District Court Rejects Motion To Dismiss Antitrust Claims In Data Analytics Joint Venture
On December 12, 2018, Judge William H. Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order granting in part and denying in part defendants’ motion to dismiss on a variety of trade secret, antitrust, and copyright claims. Teradata Corporation, et al., v. SAP SE, et al., Case No. 3:18-cv-03670 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2018). The Court agreed with defendants that the trade secret claims required additional specificity, but found the remaining claims, including those based on copyright and antitrust grounds, to be sufficiently pled.
Seventh Circuit Affirms District Court’s Grant Of Summary Judgment Of Class Action Case Alleging Price-Fixing In Containerboard Market
On December 7, 2018, the United Stated Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion by Chief Judge Diane P. Wood, affirmed a district court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of two defendants remaining in a class action alleging price-fixing by manufacturers of containerboard. Kleen Products LLC, et al. v. Georgia-Pacific LLC, et al., No. 17-2808 (7th Cir. Dec. 7, 2018). The Court rejected plaintiffs’ contention that the existence of an anticompetitive agreement between manufacturers could be inferred based primarily on allegedly correlated price increases and reductions in supply.
Oregon District Court Allows Claim Against Association Of Colleges And Universities To Proceed And Accepts Harm To Defendant’s Members As Evidence Of Antitrust Injury
On November 28, 2018, Judge Marco A. Hernández of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, on remand from the Ninth Circuit, reversed its prior grant of a motion to dismiss and held that plaintiff — which brought antitrust conspiracy claims against a non-profit corporation made up of 549 member colleges — sufficiently demonstrated antitrust injury by alleging harm to the member colleges. CollegeNET, Inc. v. The Common Application, Inc., No. 3:14-CV-00771-HZ (D. Or. Nov. 28, 2018).
Western District Of Washington Rejects Per Se Rule, But Allows Cinnabon Worker’s No-Poach Class Action To Proceed After “Quick Look” Analysis
On November 13, 2018, Judge Robert J. Bryan of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington denied a motion to dismiss a class action complaint by a former fast-food worker alleging that the company’s agreement to prohibit the re-hiring of one franchisee’s employees by another franchisee violates the Sherman Antitrust Act. Yi v. SK Bakeries LLC, et al., No. 3:18-cv-05627, Dkt. No. 33 (W.D. Wa. Nov. 13, 2018). Judge Bryan did, however, caution plaintiff against relying solely on a “quick look” theory, and suggested that whether franchisees are, in fact, a “single entity” incapable of conspiring with one another is a fact-specific question that did not merit a pleading-stage dismissal.
Northern District Of California Holds That Commitments Made In Industry Standard Setting Required Chipmaker To License Standard-Essential Patents To “All Comers,” Including Competitors
On November 6, 2018, Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sided with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and granted a motion for partial summary judgment, holding that contractual commitments it agreed to in the standards-setting process required the defendant chipmaker to license certain essential patents to competing modem chip suppliers. Federal Trade Comm’n v. Qualcomm Inc., No. 17-CV-00220 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 6, 2018).
District Of New Jersey Denies Class Certification Based On Presence Of Uninjured Class Members In Proposed Class
On October 30, 2018, Judge Madeline C. Arleo of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey declined to certify a proposed consumer class in litigation accusing a pharmaceutical manufacturer (the “Company”) of maintaining a monopoly for two of its drugs. Judge Arleo held that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, a class cannot be certified when a non-trivial portion of class members were not injured, absent some “reasonable and workable plan” to segregate those members from the rest of the class. In re Thalomid and Revlimid Antitrust Litig., No. 2:14-cv-06997, at *26, *29 (D.N.J. Oct. 30, 2018) (“Opinion”). In so holding, Judge Arleo relied heavily on the First Circuit’s recent decision in In re Asacol Antitrust Litig., which reversed a district court’s approval of a class on similar grounds. No. 18-1065, 2018 WL 4958856, at *11 (1st Cir. Oct. 15, 2018); https://www.lit-antitrust.shearman.com/first-circuit-reverses-class-certification-based.
First Circuit Reverses Class Certification Based On Presence Of Uninjured Class Members In Certified Class
On October 15, 2018, the United Stated Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in an opinion by Judge William J. Kayatta, reversed a district court’s certification of a class of indirect purchasers of the drug Asacol, holding that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, a class cannot be certified when a non-trivial portion of class members were not injured in fact, absent some “reasonable and workable plan” to segregate those members from the rest of the class. In re Asacol Antitrust Litig., No. 18-1065, 2018 WL 4958856, at *11 (1st Cir. Oct. 15, 2018).
Eastern District Of Pennsylvania Dismisses Antitrust Suit Against Lab Testing Company Alleging Unfair Competition In Specialized Testing Services
On October 9, 2018, Judge Gerald J. Pappert of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted defendant Independence Blue Cross’s (“IBC”) and defendant Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings’s (“LabCorp”) motions for summary judgment on an unfair competition claim filed by Medical Diagnostic Laboratories, LLC (“MDL”). MDL is a lab testing company that provides specialized testing services for sexually transmitted infections. MDL alleged that defendants violated Sherman Act Section 1 and Pennsylvania state unfair competition law, and tortiously interfered with existing and prospective relationships with healthcare providers, by requiring IBC in-network providers to exclusively refer patients needing lab work to LabCorp. The Court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss the Section 1 and tortious interference with existing business relationships claims on August 30, 2017, but allowed MDL to take discovery on its claims of tortious interference with prospective contractual relations and unfair competition. In his summary judgment opinion, Judge Pappert rejected these remaining claims.
Southern District Of New York Dismisses Benchmark Manipulation Claims Against Banks Not Involved In Setting Benchmark, But Allows Claims To Proceed Against Panel Banks
On October 4, 2018, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed, with prejudice, claims that certain banks engaged in an industry-wide conspiracy to manipulate various Singapore financial benchmarks in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, while simultaneously ruling that claims against other defendants that were involved in setting the benchmark could proceed. The Court also found that it did not have jurisdiction over defendant banks that were not members of the panel that set the financial benchmark at issue, and therefore dismissed plaintiffs’ claims against those defendants. Frontpoint Asian Event Driven Fund v. Citibank, 16 Civ. 5263 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 4, 2018).
Northern District Of California Applies FTAIA To Price-Fixing Claims Based On Various Extraterritorial Purchasing Scenarios
On September 20, 2018, Judge James Donato of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order granting in part and denying in part defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of the applicability of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act, 15 U.S.C. § 6a (“FTAIA”) to specific categories of claims. Judge Donato also addressed a question left open in a prior order regarding whether a state antitrust or consumer protection law might apply less broadly than the FTAIA. In re Capacitors Antitrust Litig. (No.III), Case No. 17-md-02801-JD (N.D. Cal. Sept. 20, 2018). Judge Donato’s decision clarifies the application of the FTAIA to various categories of extraterritorial transactions allegedly affected by a price-fixing conspiracy.
United States District Court For The District Of Minnesota Rejects Sherman Act Section 2 Suit Against Food Packaging Company Predicated On Sham Litigation And Discount Bundling Claims
On September 5, 2018, Judge Ann D. Montgomery of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota issued a decision ruling rejecting a food packaging company’s allegations that the largest company in the market maintained its dominant position through unlawful discount bundling and sham intellectual property claims. Inline Packaging, LLC v. Graphic Packaging International, LLC, No. 0:15-cv-03183-ADM-LIB (D. Minn. Sept. 5, 2018).CATEGORY: Sherman Act § 2
District Of New Jersey Finds State Antitrust And Consumer Protection Claims Based On Allegedly Fraudulent Procurement And Enforcement Of Patents And Related Reverse-Payment Agreement Not Preempted By Federal Patent Law
On September 18, 2018, Judge Peter G. Sheridan of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted in part and denied in part a defense motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) seeking dismissal of state antitrust and consumer protection claims based on the allegedly fraudulent procurement and enforcement of certain pharmaceutical patents and a related alleged pay-for-delay scheme. In re Effexor Antitrust Litig., No. 3:11-cv-05661 (D.N.J. Sept. 18, 2018).CATEGORY: State Antitrust and Competition Law
District Of Columbia Releases Redacted Opinion Detailing Reasoning Behind Decision To Grant Preliminary Injunction In Tronox-Cristal Acquisition
On September 5, 2018, Judge Trevor N. McFadden of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request for a preliminary injunction preventing Tronox Ltd. (“Tronox”) from completing its proposed $2.4 billion acquisition of National Titanium Dioxide Company Ltd. (“Cristal”) until after a final ruling in the FTC’s administrative proceedings challenging the deal. Federal Trade Commission v. Tronox Ltd., et al., 1:18-cv-01622 (TNM) (D.D.C. Sept. 12, 2018).Tronox intends to appeal and will consider whether to proceed with a divestiture to resolve potential competitive concerns.
Illinois District Court Denies Sandwich Franchisor’s Motion To Dismiss Sherman Act Claim Alleging Damages From No-Poach Agreement
On July 31, 2018, Judge Michael J. Reagan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois granted in part and denied in part defendant-franchisor’s motion to dismiss an antitrust claim filed by a purported class of former employees of defendant’s franchisees. Butler v. Jimmy John’s Franchise, LLC, No. 18-CV-0133-MJR-RJD, 2018 WL 3631577 (S.D. Ill. July 31, 2018). Plaintiffs alleged that provisions included in defendant’s franchise agreements with its franchisees in which the franchisees agreed not to hire each other’s employees—commonly known as “no-poach” agreements—violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act and various state antitrust laws by suppressing employee wages and mobility in the labor market. Defendants moved to dismiss all claims, arguing that plaintiffs failed to allege an injury that would confer Article III standing, and that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege an antitrust conspiracy under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
The Ninth Circuit Affirms Implied Antitrust Immunity For USA Track & Field And The United States Olympic Committee
On August 7, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court holding that USA Track & Field and the United States Olympic Committee were immune to antitrust liability for imposing advertising restrictions during the Olympic Trials for track and field athletes. Gold Medal LLC v. USA Track & Field, No. 6:16-cv-00092-MC (9th Cir. Aug. 7, 2018). The Court held that defendants were entitled to implied antitrust immunity because the advertising restriction was integral to performance of their statutory duties under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (“ASA”) to fund the U.S. Olympic Team. Plaintiff alleged that the defendants’ anticompetitive conspiracy imposing advertising restrictions that excluded certain sponsors from the Olympic Trials for track and field athletes violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
Ninth Circuit Upholds Dismissal Of Antitrust Suit Against The Anheuser-Busch InBev And SABMiller Merger
On August 8, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a dismissal of an antitrust class action by beer consumers that challenged the acquisition of SABMiller (“SAB”) by Anheuser-Busch InBev (“ABI”). In an opinion by Judge Margaret McKeown, the Ninth Circuit held that the beer consumers failed to state a claim under Section 7 of the Clayton Act because: (1) ABI did not actually acquire a competitor in the U.S. beer market; (2) ABI did not acquire a “potential competitor” in the U.S. beer market; and (3) the consumers’ concern that the acquisition would significantly increase the threat of post-merger coordination between the last remaining market players, ABI and Molson Coors Brewing Company (“Molson”), was speculative.
Southern District Of New York Dismisses Silver Benchmark Manipulation And Silver Trading Conspiracy Claims
On July 25, 2018, Judge Valerie E. Caproni of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed with prejudice claims that certain banks participated in a conspiracy to (a) manipulate the London Silver Fixing, and (b) engage in manipulation of silver spot markets and futures markets in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The Court held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that these banks—which did not participate in the London Silver Fixing—were part of the alleged conspiracy to manipulate that benchmark. The Court also dismissed other conspiracy claims on antitrust standing grounds, based on the remoteness of the injuries allegedly suffered by plaintiffs and the dangers of disproportionate recovery that this remoteness would present. The Court also dismissed claims that the alleged conduct violated the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”) and justified recovery under an unjust enrichment theory.
Georgia District Court Denies Class Certification To Plaintiffs Alleging Conspiracy To Delay Release of Generic Versions Of Testosterone Replacement Drug
On July 16, 2018, in the latest development in the litigation over the “reverse payment” settlements relating to the pharmaceutical testosterone replacement AndroGel that the Supreme Court addressed in FTC v. Actavis, Inc., 570 U.S. 136 (2013), Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied class certification to a proposed class of direct purchaser plaintiffs. In re AndroGel Antitrust Litigation (No. II), No. 2084, 2018 WL 3424612 (N.D. Ga. July 15, 2018).
Illinois District Court Dismisses Complaint Alleging Conspiracy To Restrict Supply And Increase The Price Of Intravenous Saline Solution
On July 5, 2018, Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted defendant intravenous saline (“IV saline”) bag manufacturers’ motion to dismiss a complaint filed by a purported class of IV saline purchasers alleging that defendants conspired to restrict the output and raise the price of IV saline solution in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Washington County Health Care Auth., Inc., et al. v. Baxter Int’l Inc., et al., No. 16 CV 10324 (N.D. Ill. July 5, 2018). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants conspired to create an artificial shortage of IV saline solution by initiating a series of bogus voluntary recalls to deplete inventories of health care facilities in an effort to increase prices. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims, arguing the complaint did not adequately allege the existence of an agreement to restrain the supply and increase the price of IV saline.
United States District Court For the Eastern District Of Pennsylvania Finds Violation Of FTC Act Section 5 By Pharmaceutical Companies And Orders $448 Million Disgorgement
On June 29, 2018, Judge Harvey Bartle III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a decision ruling that AbbVie Inc., Abbott Laboratories, and Unimed Pharmaceuticals LLC (together, “AbbVie”), along with Besins Healthcare, Inc. (“Besins”), violated Section 5(a) of the FTC Act by engaging in sham litigation to delay entry of competition to its testosterone replacement drug, and ordered disgorgement of $448 million. Federal Trade Commission v. AbbVie Inc., No. 2:14-cv-05151-HB (E.D. Pa. June 29, 2018). This represents the largest monetary award that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has achieved in a litigated antitrust case.
Eighth Circuit Dismisses Federal Antitrust Claims In Propane Action, Finding Plaintiffs Failed To Allege Injury Or Ongoing Conspiracy By Defendants
On June 22, 2018, a three-judge panel on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part a district court decision granting summary judgment for defendants and dismissing antitrust claims under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, as well as the antitrust laws of 23 states and the District of Columbia, against two propane gas companies. Mario Ortiz et al. v. Ferrellgas Partners et al., No. 16-4086 (8th Cir. June 22, 2018).
United States Supreme Court Upholds Rejection Of The Government’s Antitrust Challenge To American Express’s Merchant Contracts
On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision by Justice Thomas, held that provisions in American Express Company’s (“American Express” or “Amex”) and its operating subsidiary’s contracts with merchants that restricted the ability of these merchants to steer customers to other credit or charge cards did not violate the Sherman Act. Ohio v. Am. Express Co., 585 U.S. __, slip op. at 1 (2018). The Court held that plaintiffs—the United States Department of Justice and the Attorneys General of several states—failed to satisfy their burden of proving anticompetitive effects in the relevant market under the rule of reason. Id. at 10. The ruling has important implications for antitrust analysis, not only for the credit card industry, but for other industries that operate in two-sided markets where firms must compete simultaneously for different groups of customers whose demands are distinct but deeply interrelated.
Jury In The Eastern District Of Pennsylvania Finds No Liability For Egg Producers In Alleged Price Fixing Suit
06/26/2018On June 14, 2018, a jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found three egg producers not liable for violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act based on an alleged conspiracy to restrict the supply of egg-laying hens and artificially inflate the price of eggs. In re Processed Eggs Prods. Antitrust Litig., 2:08-md-02002 (E.D. Pa. June 14, 2018).
United States District Court For The District Of Columbia Rejects DOJ Challenge To AT&T-Time Warner Merger
06/19/2018On June 12, 2018, following a six-week-long bench trial, Judge Richard J. Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner does not violate the antitrust laws, rejecting the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) challenge to the merger. United States v. AT&T Inc., Civil Case No. 17-2511 (RJL) (D.D.C. June 12, 2018). This case—the first vertical merger challenge tried by the Justice Department since 1977—demonstrates the difficulty in challenging mergers where a competitor is not eliminated by the transaction.
United States Supreme Court Rules That Foreign Government Submissions As To Disputed Issues Of Foreign Law, While Entitled To Deference, Are Not Binding On U.S. Courts
06/19/2018On June 14, 2018, Justice Ginsburg, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, revived Sherman Act claims against Chinese vitamin manufacturers, reversing a 2016 opinion by the Second Circuit in In re Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation, 837 F.3d 175 (2d Cir. 2016), and holding that a foreign government’s interpretation of its own law is not binding on U.S. courts. Animal Science Prods., Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharm. Co., No. 16-1220 (June 14, 2018).
Read more.CATEGORY: Horizontal Restraints
Utah District Court Denies Defendants’ Motion To Dismiss Complaint Alleging Restraint Of Trade In Online Lens Retail Market
On May 17, 2018, Judge Tena Campbell of the United States District Court for the District of Utah denied three leading contact lens retailer defendants’ motion to dismiss a putative class action complaint alleging violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. J. Thompson, et al. v. 1-800 Contacts, et al., Case No. 2:16-CV-1183-TC (D. Utah May 17, 2018). Plaintiffs, who purchased contact lenses online from defendants, alleged that they paid artificially-inflated prices for those contact lenses due to defendants’ anticompetitive trademark litigation settlement agreements. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims because the plaintiffs lacked antitrust standing, failed to properly plead a relevant product market, did not allege a single overarching conspiracy, and with respect to damages claims prior to 2012, failed to file a lawsuit within the Clayton Act’s four-year statute of limitations.
United States Federal Trade Commission Administrative Law Judge Dismisses Complaint Challenging Reverse Payment Settlement Between Pharmaceutical Manufacturers
On May 11, 2018, U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell issued an initial decision ruling that a reverse payment settlement by Endo Pharmaceuticals (“Endo”) with Impax Laboratories (“Impax”) did not violate Section 5 of the FTC Act, and dismissing the FTC’s complaint. In the Matter of Impax Labs., Inc., Docket No. 9373 (Initial Decision, May 11, 2018). Judge Chappell concluded that despite the reverse payment Endo made to Impax, the anticompetitive harm arising from the settlement was “largely theoretical,” and that the settlement’s procompetitive benefits outweighed any anticompetitive effect from the agreement. The initial decision is the first administrative ruling on a reverse payment trial since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Actavis decision. The decision has been noticed for appeal to the Commission.
Ninth Circuit Overturns Dismissal Of Antitrust Suit Against City’s Ordinance Allowing App-Based Drivers To Collectively Bargain
On May 11, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court partially reversed the district court’s dismissal of claims brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of ride-share app companies, that a Seattle ordinance allowing for-hire drivers to bargain collectively violated and was preempted by the antitrust laws. In an opinion by Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith, the Ninth Circuit held that the state-action defense did not protect the ordinance from preemption by the Sherman Act because: (1) the State of Washington had not clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed a state policy authorizing for-hire drivers to fix the prices of their service fees when using a ride-share app; and (2) the active-supervision requirement of the state-action defense was not met.