Banks Win Dismissal Of U.S. Silver Price-Fixing Litigation
On May 22, 2023, Judge Caproni of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed with prejudice a long-running litigation brought by plaintiff traders who in 2014 accused certain financial institutions of conspiring to periodically suppress a daily silver benchmark price set in London in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In re London Silver Fixing, Ltd., Antitrust Litigation, 2023 WL 3582198 (S.D.N.Y. May 22, 2023). Plaintiffs had accused the financial institutions of manipulating silver prices from 2007 to 2013.
Broadway Producer’s Antitrust Claims Against Actors’ Union Barred By Federal Exemption
On April 14, 2023, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a suit brought by Garth Drabinsky, an award-winning Broadway producer, against an actors’ union, the Actors’ Equity Association (“AEA”), for allegedly blacklisting him in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. The Court dismissed the suit with prejudice, holding that Drabinsky’s federal antitrust claims were barred by the statutory exemption for unions. Drabinsky v. Actors’ Equity Association, No. 22-CV-8933-LGS (S.D.N.Y.).
Amazon Wins Motion To Dismiss Antitrust Suit Because Plaintiffs Lacked Antitrust Injury
On April 20, 2023, Judge Ricardo Martinez of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington dismissed with leave to amend a putative class action alleging that Amazon’s linking of favorable website product placement for third-party sellers with the third-party sellers’ purchases of Amazon’s fulfillment services was an unlawful tying arrangement under Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Hogan v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 21-996 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 20, 2023). Plaintiffs were members of Amazon Prime, an Amazon program offering free or reduced shipping on purchases through Amazon, among other benefits, in exchange for an annual fee. Plaintiffs alleged that third-party sellers who purchase Amazon’s fulfillment services receive a “Prime Badge” and favorable product placement on Amazon’s website in the “Buy Box,” the section of the product page through which plaintiffs claimed 90% of Amazon.com consumer purchases are made.
Western District Of Washington Trims Some Claims, Keeps Others, In Most-Favored-Nation Litigation Against Amazon
On March 23, 2023, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington partially granted and partially denied Amazon’s motion to dismiss a putative consumer class action alleging Amazon’s policies have prevented third-party sellers from offering lower prices on other e-commerce platforms. Frame-Wilson, et al. v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 2:20-cv-00424-RAJ, 2023 WL 2632513 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 23, 2023).
Central District Of California Nixes Streaming Platform’s Cartel Claims Against Popular Comedians
On April 5, 2023, Judge Mark C. Scarsi of the Central District of California dismissed with prejudice a streaming service’s antitrust counterclaims alleging that various well-known comedians and their licensing agents conspired to fix prices and attempted to monopolize the market for spoken-word comedic audio content for failure to allege facts showing either an agreement in restraint of trade in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act or the market power necessary to state a claim under Section 2. Yellow Rose Productions Inc. v. Pandora Media LLC, No. 2:22-cv-00809 (C.D. Cal, Apr. 5, 2023).
Northern District Of California Dismisses Class Action Suit Against Social Networking Company Without Prejudice, Rejecting An Argument That Failing To Share Data Constitutes Anticompetitive Conduct
On March 8, 2023, Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted a motion to dismiss a proposed antitrust class action lawsuit alleging that social networking company (the “Company”) has a monopoly in the professional social networking market, which it protects through a barrier to entry comprising the Company’s “data centralization and aggregation, its machine learning and AI infrastructure, and the inferred data it produce[s].” Crowder et al. v. LinkedIn Corporation, No. 22-cv-00237-HSG (N.D. Cal., Mar. 8, 2023). Plaintiffs alleged the Company violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act by engaging in a “monopoly broth” of anticompetitive conduct, ranging from exclusive data sharing agreements to an alleged agreement with Facebook to divide markets. Granting the motion to dismiss, the Court ruled that none of the alleged activities amounted to anticompetitive conduct, either individually or on aggregate.
Second Circuit Rules Exchange Traders Are Efficient Enforcers With Antitrust Standing In Precious Metals Benchmarking Case
On February 27, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed and remanded the Southern District of New York’s dismissal of antitrust claims alleging that defendants conspired to manipulate the market value of platinum and palladium. In re Platinum and Palladium Antitrust Litigation, No. 20-1458 (2d Cir. Feb. 27, 2023). The Second Circuit ruled that certain plaintiffs who traded futures contracts on an exchange were efficient enforcers with standing to sue under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, while traders in the physical markets for these metals were not efficient enforcers and lacked antitrust standing.
Second Circuit Finds Binding Trade Agreement Itself Sufficient To Allege Concerted Action
On March 7, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated and remanded the lower court’s dismissal of Relevant Sports, LLC’s (“Plaintiff”) claim that United States Soccer Federation, Inc. (USSF) and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) (“Defendants”) violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act’s prohibition on unreasonable restraints of trade. Relevant Sports, LLC v. United States Soccer Federation, Inc., 2023 WL 2375884 (2d Cir. Mar. 7, 2023). The Second Circuit held that where an association rule itself is the alleged anticompetitive agreement challenged, the existence of a binding association rule is sufficient direct evidence of concerted action to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Plaintiff “need not allege an antecedent agreement to agree” to move forward on its antitrust claim.
Department Of Justice And State Attorneys General Sue Google For Alleged Monopolization Of Digital Advertising Technologies
On January 24, 2023, the Department of Justice, along with the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia, filed a civil antitrust action against Google in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Plaintiffs allege that Google violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act by monopolizing several digital-advertising products. These products are various software programs and exchanges used by advertisers to create ads and place them on websites, including as search results on Google. When someone uses Google’s search engine, they are not only inundated with popular search-engine results but with relevant advertisements. In addition to search-engine advertisements, Google’s tools are used by third-party websites to promote digital advertising. Plaintiffs contend that website publishers rely on Google’s digital-advertising products to sell advertisements and that advertisers depend on them to purchase advertisements.
Sixth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Aspiring NBA Player Agent’s Suit Alleging NBPA And NBA Conspired To Prevent Him From Becoming An Agent
On December 30, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an aspiring National Basketball Association (NBA) player agent’s suit against the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and the NBA. Rosel C. Hurley III v. National Basketball Players Association, et al., No. 22-3038 (6th Cir. Dec. 30, 2022). Plaintiff alleged that the NBPA and NBA conspired to exclude him from the marketplace for NBA player agents. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal, because it viewed the NBPA and NBA’s alleged actions as exempt from antitrust scrutiny under both the statutory and non-statutory labor exemptions to the Sherman Act.
Alleged Price-Fixing Among Turkey Product Suppliers Through Industry Reporting And Trade Association Activity Survives Second Motion To Dismiss
On November 21, 2022, Judge Virginia Kendall of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied a motion to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit alleging that ten turkey product suppliers coordinated pricing and reduced output though direct communications, trade association meetings, and industry reports provided by co-defendant Agri Stats, Inc. In re Turkey Antitrust Litig., No. 19-8318 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 2022). The Court had previously dismissed as implausible an initial, single-paragraph allegation of a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The case proceeded, however, on plaintiffs’ separate allegations of improper exchanges of competitively sensitive information under the rule of reason. Over a year later and after completion of substantial discovery, plaintiffs amended their complaint to renew their per se claim. The motion to dismiss here only related to the per se violation. In denying the motion to dismiss, the Court ruled that plaintiffs’ complaint sufficiently alleged parallel conduct in the form of coordinated capacity reductions and price increases, as well as certain additional “plus factors” that could suggest an agreement among defendants.
Maryland District Court Denies DOJ’s Attempt To Halt Merger Based On Competition For A Single NSA Contract
On October 11, 2022, Judge Catherine C. Blake of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland denied the U.S. Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) motion to preliminarily enjoin the $440 million acquisition of a company with expertise in specialized software development, cyber, and analytics by a larger consulting firm. Ruling that DOJ failed to show that the proposed transaction would cause anticompetitive harm in violation of federal antitrust laws, the Court was unwilling to grant the “extraordinary remedy” of blocking the merger and permitted the parties to close the transaction. United States v. Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. et al., No. 1:22-cv-01603 (D. Md. Oct. 11, 2022).
Fifth Circuit Rejects Hospital Operator’s Antitrust Claims Against Dominant Medical Provider In Shreveport, Louisiana
On September 19, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the operator of a hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana had failed to adequately plead Sherman Act § 1 and § 2 claims against the dominant medical provider in the Shreveport market. BRFHH Shreveport, LLC v. Willis-Knighton Medical Center, No. 21-30622 (5th Cir. Sep. 19, 2022).
Sixth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Antitrust Lawsuit Against Football Helmet Manufacturers
On September 9, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit filed against defendants National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (“NOCSAE”) and a group of football helmet manufacturers including Riddell, Inc., Kranos Corp., and Xenith, LLC. Hobart-Mayfield, Inc. v. Nat’l Operating Comm. on Standards for Athletic Equip., No. 21-1441 (6th Cir. Sept. 9, 2022). The Court ruled that plaintiff Hobart-Mayfield, Inc.’s (Mayfield) complaint alleging antitrust violations in the alleged football helmet market failed to state a claim for plausible relief and was properly dismissed by the trial court upon defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
United States District Court For The District Of Kansas Declines To Adopt The Co-Conspirator Exception To The Illinois Brick Direct Purchaser Rule In EpiPen Antitrust Litigation
On August 8, 2022, Judge Daniel Crabtree of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas declined to apply the co-conspirator exception to the Illinois Brick direct purchaser rule in a case alleging a conspiracy to delay the entry of generic competition to a patented epinephrine auto injector (“EpiPen”), dismissing antitrust claims against defendant EpiPen manufacturers while allowing the claims against the defendant distributors from whom plaintiffs directly purchased EpiPens to proceed. KPH Healthcare Services, et al. v. Mylan N.V., et al., No. 20-2065-DDC-TJJ (D. Ka. July 8, 2022).
Northern District Of California Certifies Class Of Direct Purchasers In Latest Development In Long-Running Cathode Ray Tube Price-Fixing Saga
On August 1, 2022, Judge John S. Tigar of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California certified a class of direct purchasers in a long-running antitrust action alleging that manufacturers of cathode ray tubes conspired to fix prices in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The Court certified the class after concluding that plaintiffs’ claims were typical of the class and the sole defendant who has not settled with plaintiffs failed to identify any individualized issues that would predominate over issues common to the proposed class.
Round 2: Fifth Circuit Dismisses Antitrust Claims Against Standard-Essential Patent Holders, Withdrawing Prior Opinion Finding Plaintiff Lacked Standing
On June 21, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a decision dismissing Plaintiff Continental Automotive Systems’ claims challenging the alleged refusal of certain standard-essential patent holders and their licensors to issue the supplier patents on fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (“FRAND”) terms under Section 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Continental Automotive Sys., Inc. v. Avanci, L.L.C., No. 20-11032 (June 21, 2022).
No “Sham,” No Foul: Mattress Companies’ Agency Petitions Immune From Antitrust Liability, Finds District Of Utah
On May 23, 2022, Judge David Barlow of the District of Utah dismissed claims against a group of mattress manufacturers who had filed antidumping petitions with federal regulators. CVB, Inc. v. Corsicana Mattress Company, et al., No. 1:20-cv-00144 (D. Utah 2022). Plaintiff alleged that defendants engaged in anticompetitive conduct including price fixing and interference with plaintiff’s business relationships in violation of the Sherman Act and the Utah Antitrust Act, in addition to Lanham Act and state common law claims. The Court dismissed all claims, and in particular dismissed with prejudice those claims relating to defendants’ antidumping petitions, which it found protected under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.
Northern District Of Illinois Rejects Home Buyer’s Bid To Challenge Real Estate Broker Commission Rules As Anticompetitive
On May 2, 2022, Judge Andrea R. Wood of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a motion to dismiss a putative class action complaint brought by a plaintiff home buyer against the National Association of Realtors (“NAR”) and a number of residential real estate brokerages alleging that certain NAR rules governing real estate brokers’ dealings with home sellers violated of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Leeder v. The Nat’l Ass’n of Realtors, et al., No. 21-cv-00430, Dkt. No. 81 (N.D. Ill. May 2, 2022). The Court held that, because the home buyer was not a direct purchaser of the brokerage services, which were the subject of a contract between the seller and the seller’s broker, his claim was barred under Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, 431 U.S. 720 (1977).
Third Circuit Holds That A Concessions Vendor Does Not Have Antitrust Standing To Challenge An Exclusive Agreement Between An Airport And A Third-Party Beverage Company
On April 27, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a concessions vendor did not have antitrust standing to challenge an exclusive beverage agreement between the Philadelphia International Airport and a third-party beverage company under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Host Int’l, Inc. v. Marketplace, PHL, LLC, No. 20-2848 (3d Cir. Apr. 27, 2022). Accordingly, the Court affirmed a district court ruling granting a motion to dismiss the concession vendor’s antitrust claims.
First Circuit Holds That Concerted Action By Independent Contractor Jockeys Seeking Better Pay Is Protected Conduct Under The Labor-Dispute Exemption
On April 4, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed a district court’s ruling that a group of jockeys violated federal antitrust law by engaging in a group boycott and jointly refusing to participate in races in an effort to obtain better pay. Confederacion Hipica de Puerto Rice, Inc. v. Confederacion de Jinetes Puertorriquenos, Inc., No. 19-2201 (1st Cir., April 4, 2022). The First Circuit held that the jockeys’ status as independent contractors, rather than traditional employees, did not preclude them from claiming protection for their concerted action under the labor-dispute exemption to the antitrust laws because the issue in the dispute was labor-related.
Ninth Circuit Revives SmileDirect Antitrust Suit
On March 17, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the dismissal of an antitrust complaint brought by SmileDirectClub LLC (“SmileDirect”) against the Dental Board of California. The complaint alleged that the Dental Board of California utilized unfounded investigations to intimidate and harass with the aim of driving SmileDirect out of the dental and orthodontia markets because of the threat that its cheaper direct-to-consumer model posed to the traditional practice of dentistry. SmileDirectClub, LLC v. Tippins, No. 20-55735 (9th Cir. Mar. 31, 2022).
Auto-Parts Supplier Lacks Standing To Bring Antitrust Claims Against Standard-Essential Patent Holders And Licensors Of Vehicular Wireless Connection Technology
On February 28, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that an upstream auto-parts supplier lacked Article III standing to bring an antitrust suit challenging the alleged refusal of certain standard-essential patent holders and their agent to license the supplier patents on fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (“FRAND”) terms. Cont’l Auto. Sys., Inc. v. Avanci, LLC et al., No. 20-11032 (5th Cir. Feb. 28, 2022).
Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Antitrust Allegations In DRAM Pricing Case
On March 7, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of claims that the three largest manufacturers of dynamic random-access memory (“DRAM”) conspired to artificially inflate prices by restricting supply. In re DRAM Indirect Purchaser Antitrust Litigation, 21-15125 (9th Cir. Mar. 7, 2022). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants conspired to simultaneously reduce the production of DRAM in order to drive up prices. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the claims because plaintiffs’ allegations did not rise to the level of plausibility required under Rule 12(b)(6). The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the facts as alleged were not sufficient to establish that defendants’ alleged conduct was the result of a “preceding agreement,” rather than conscious parallel behavior.
U.S. District Court For The Southern District Of Texas Dismisses Claims Against Three Largest U.S. Producers Of Steel
On February 17, 2022, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed an antitrust suit against the country’s largest steel manufacturers. JSW Steel (USA) Inc. v. Nucor Corp. et al., 4:21-cv-01842 (S.D. Tex. 2022). Plaintiff, JSW Steel (a finished-steel producer), alleged that Cleveland Cliffs Inc., Nucor Corp., and U.S. Steel Corp. violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act and various Texas state competition and contracts laws. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants colluded to increase the price of certain steel imports by lobbying for tariffs, while not being able to provide Plaintiff with equivalent steel products. Plaintiff argued that its thriving business was crippled and eventually failed due to the collusive behavior of Defendants.
New Tennessee Case Alleges “Archrivals” Google And Facebook Secretly Conspired To Dominate The Worldwide Digital Advertising Market
It is widely known that the evolution to online news has been challenging for print media sources, with some estimating that as much as half of all print revenue disappearing and one fifth of U.S. newspapers closing their doors since 2007. In recent years, the House and Senate have focused on tech giants and the role these companies play in the lives of Americans and in a variety of markets, including digital advertising. Following a long line of congressional hearings and committee investigations, a number of antitrust complaints have been filed by the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and state Attorneys General across the country against major Big Tech companies like Facebook (now known as Meta Platforms, Inc.) and Google. While some have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation, new cases continue to be filed by private plaintiffs.
Collusion In Telescope Market Was Clear To See, Finds Ninth Circuit
On December 6, 2021, Judge Ronald M. Gould of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed jury verdicts against defendant-telescope manufacturers and distributors. Optronic Technologies, Inc. v. Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co., Ltd., et al., No. 2:20-cv-15940 (9th Cir. 2021). Plaintiff alleged that defendants conspired to fix prices on telescopes and monopolize the market in violation of the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and California antitrust and competition laws. The Court largely affirmed the district court jury’s decisions, vacating and remanding only as to the amount of the settlement set-off.
Supreme Court Denies Certiorari In State Hospital System Antitrust Immunity Case
On December 6, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a Fourth Circuit ruling that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, a North Carolina hospital system doing business as Atrium Health, counted as an arm of the local government. The Fourth Circuit’s decision meant that Atrium was immune from antitrust liability, and the Supreme Court’s decision leaves a potential circuit split on the status of dominant quasi-public hospital systems unresolved.
Fifth Circuit Blocks Topgolf Antitrust Suit For Lack Of Antitrust Injury
On November 15, 2021, Judges Edith Jones, Jerry Smith, and James Haynes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an antitrust complaint related to Topgolf International’s (“Topgolf”) acquisition of Protracer in 2016. The complaint alleged that Topgolf acquired a technology owned by Protracer in order to drive its competitor, SureShot Golf Ventures (“SureShot”) out of business in violation of Section 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. SureShot Golf Ventures, Inc. vs. Topgolf International, Inc., 21-20132 (5th Cir. Nov. 15, 2021).
Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Section 1 Complaint Against Medical Board For Failure To Plead Facts Supporting Conspiracy Allegations
On October 8, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the Northern District of Illinois’ dismissal of a complaint alleging that a nonprofit provider of medical certifications violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by conspiring to restrain trade in the alleged nationwide market for medical care. The three-judge panel found that plaintiff, an association of medical practitioners, alleged only conclusory claims against defendant and failed to plead adequate facts to state a claim for unlawful conspiracy under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Ass’n of Am. Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. v. Am. Board of Med. Specialties, No. 20-3072 (7th Cir. Oct. 8, 2021).
Tech Start-Up’s Monopoly Suit Moves Forward Against Utilities Management Power Player
On September 30, 2021, Judge Amy Totenberg of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied a utilities management company’s motion to dismiss state and federal antitrust and tortious interference claims. Lucasys Inc. v. Powerplan, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-02987 (N.D. Ga. Sept. 30, 2021). Plaintiff alleges five counts of antitrust violations by defendant under Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, for unlawful restraint of trade and monopoly maintenance via negative tying, the concerted refusal to deal with plaintiff and other market competitors by denying access to software and data needed to develop competing products, and de facto exclusive dealing provisions in contracts with utilities. The Court found that plaintiff had sufficiently pled its claims at the motion to dismiss stage and declined to grant defendant’s motion to dismiss.
DOJ Says Agreement Not To Recruit And To Suppress Wages In Las Vegas Case Is Clearly Illegal
On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) filed a response in Nevada federal court opposing a motion to dismiss from defendants VDA OC LLC and its former regional manager Ryan Hee, in a case in which they are charged with agreeing with another unnamed contractor not to recruit or hire from one another, and to suppress wages for Las Vegas school nurses. The DOJ stated that this is a simple case arguing that agreeing to allocate nurses is market division, and fixing nurses wages is price fixing, both of which have long been considered per se unlawful under the antitrust laws.
Ninth Circuit Reverses Certification Of A Nationwide Indirect Purchaser Class Due To State Law Differences And Its Prior Decision In FTC v. Qualcomm
On September 29, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s order certifying a nationwide class of up to 250 million people. The Ninth Circuit concluded that a common issue of law does not predominate because the laws of other several states apply, not just California’s Cartwright Act and Unfair Competition Law. In re Qualcomm Antitrust Litig., No. 19-15159, 2021 WL 4448713 (9th Cir. Sept. 29, 2021). The indirect purchaser plaintiffs are consumers who allege that Qualcomm Incorporated (“Qualcomm”) violated federal antitrust laws and California’s Cartwright Act and Unfair Competition Law by engaging in certain corporate policies regarding their licensing of standard essential patents (“SEPs”) and related sales of modem chips. The Ninth Circuit held that California’s choice of law rules precluded class certification because states without an Illinois Brick repealer statute, which often authorize indirect purchasers to bring antitrust damages suits, “have a clear interest in applying their laws to class members” and to apply only California law would “allow California to set antitrust enforcement policy for the entire country.”
Northern District Of California Finds That Antitrust Claims Against Technology Platform Fail While California’s Unfair Competition Law Supports Limited Injunction
On September 10, 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued her post-trial decision in Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc., No. 4:20-cv-05640-YGR (N. D. Cal. 2021). Plaintiff claimed that defendant’s developer policies violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and the Cartwright Act, California’s analogue to the Sherman Act, as well as California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”). The Court, in a 185-page opinion, found that plaintiff did not meet its burden to show that defendant’s policies violated the antitrust laws and denied plaintiff the broad injunction that would have required substantial changes to defendant’s App Store business. However, the Court held that plaintiff was entitled to a limited injunction under the UCL as to defendant’s anti-steering restrictions. The Court also granted contract damages for defendant’s counterclaims against plaintiff.
Eastern District Of Virginia Certifies Class Of Cholesterol Drug End Payors
On August 20, 2021, Judge Rebecca Smith of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia certified a class of end-payor plaintiffs (“EPPs”) alleging that defendant pharmaceutical companies (“defendants”) entered into a reverse payment agreement that delayed generic competition to the branded cholesterol drug Zetia in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In re Zetia (Ezetimibe) Antitrust Litig., MDL No. 2:18-md-2836 (E. D. Va. 2021). This case is part of a multidistrict litigation against defendants, and Judge Smith’s certification decision was in the face of a Fourth Circuit decision two weeks prior that vacated her decision to certify a different class of plaintiffs.
Ninth Circuit Rejects Sherman Act Challenge To Non-Solicitation Provision In Contract Between Traveling Nurse Staffing Firms
On July 19, 2021, the United State Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendant/appellee healthcare staffing firm, holding that the non-solicitation provision in defendant’s contract with plaintiff/appellant to provide traveling nurse services did not amount to a naked restraint on trade because it was ancillary to the overall pro-competitive agreement between the parties and plaintiff had not shown harm to competition. Aya Healthcare Servs., Inc. v. AMN Healthcare, Inc., No. 20-55679, 2021 WL 3671384 (9th Cir. Aug. 19, 2021).
Northern District Of California Finds Exclusive Real Estate Service Is Improper Plaintiff To Enforce Antitrust Claims Against Competitor Trade Association
On August 16, 2021, Judge Vince Chhabria of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed, with prejudice, a complaint alleging that the dominant national real estate listing service violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by prohibiting realtors from marketing a property to the public unless they also list the property on the service. Top Agent Network, Inc. v. National Ass’n of Realtors, No. 20-cv-03198-VC (N.D. Cal. Aug. 16, 2021). The Court found that, although plaintiff—a competing real estate listing service—may have alleged an antitrust violation, plaintiff did not have antitrust standing to bring the claim.
Second Circuit Takes A Second Look At Chinese Vitamin C Price-fixing Case And Again Affirms Dismissal
On August 10, 2021, the Second Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, affirmed the dismissal—for the second time—of price-fixing claims against a pair of Chinese vitamin C exporters, after the Supreme Court had remanded it for further consideration. Animal Science Prods., et al., v. Hebei Welcome Pharma. Co. Ltd., et al., 13-4791-cv (2nd Cir. Aug 10, 2021). Following the Supreme Court’s directive to “carefully consider but not conclusively defer” to submissions from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit agreed that the case should, nevertheless, still be dismissed on international comity grounds. This decision—involving the Chinese government’s first appearance in a U.S. court—was unusual for an antitrust case in that there was no real dispute that the alleged anticompetitive conduct occurred. Instead, the question centered on “whether Chinese law required the Chinese sellers’ conduct.”
Southern District Of Illinois Refuses To Certify A Class Alleging That Jimmy John’s No-Poach Clauses Suppressed Wages
On July 23, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois denied a named plaintiff’s motion for class certification against Defendants Jimmy John’s Franchise, LLC and Jimmy John’s Enterprises, LLC on the basis that he did not meet the factors required to certify a class—among which included his failure to show that his claims where typical of the claims of the potential class members he purported to represent. Conrad v. Jimmy John’s Franchise, LLC, No. 18-CV-00133-NJR (S.D. Ill. July 23, 2021).
Fast-Food Franchise Cases Hash Out Standard Of Review For Labor Market Restrictions
The parties in two separate cases involving labor market restrictions submitted supplemental briefing within days of one another following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the much-anticipated NCAA v. Alston case on June 21, 2021. The unanimous opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch with a full concurrence by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was levied to support arguments by both sets of defendants and plaintiffs on the appropriate standard of review in each of their cases. This battle is being fought in a broader context of increased activity by the Department of Justice in pursuing “no-poach” agreements between employers, and President Biden’s July 9th Executive Order, which specifically addressed labor non-compete agreements.
Supreme Court Sustains Injunction Against NCAA Rules Limiting Education-Related Benefits Received By Student Athletes
On June 21, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in a long running and closely watched dispute between the National Collegiate Athletic Association, along with 11 Division I conferences, (together, the “NCAA” or “Defendants”) and a class of current and former Division I football and basketball players claiming that NCAA restrictions on their compensation violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act (together, the “student athletes” or “Plaintiffs”). NCAA v. Alston, et al., No. 20–512, 594 U.S. ___ (2021). The Court’s unanimous decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, upheld a district court order enjoining NCAA limits placed on education-related benefits provided by member schools to student athletes and permitting limits on compensation and benefits related to athletic performance.
Northern District Of Illinois Terminates Claims Against Bank In Antitrust Suit
On June 1, 2021, Judge Thomas Durkin of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a complaint alleging that a bank conspired with other defendants in the poultry industry in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In re Broilers Chicken Antitrust Litig., 16-8637 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2021).
Fifth Circuit Finds Sherman Act Conspiracy Claims Survive Statute Of Limitations Challenge
On May 18, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of claims by the Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care and United Allergy Services (“plaintiffs”) that Quest Diagnostics (“Quest”) violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Acad. of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc., No. 20-50179, 2021 WL 1976666 (5th Cir. May 18, 2021). The district court originally dismissed the claims because Quest did not commit any overt acts within the four-year statute of limitations period. On appeal, the Court found that an email from Quest’s co-conspirator referencing a meeting with a Quest employee provided sufficient evidence of an overt act to extend the statute of limitations period.
Northern District Of California Shuts Down App Developers’ Antitrust Suit
On April 26, 2021, Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a complaint alleging that Facebook violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by removing certain application interfaces that plaintiffs relied on for their mobile applications. Reveal Chat Holdco LLC, et al. v. Facebook, 5:20-cv-00363 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 26, 2021). Plaintiffs alleged that the application programming interfaces (“APIs”) were central to their ability to function and that the removal of these APIs by Facebook in 2015 was part of a scheme to harm applications that were competitive or potentially competitive with Facebook. In dismissing the complaint for a second time and with prejudice, the Court concluded that plaintiffs’ “entire theory of liability is based on completed acts by Facebook beyond the limitations period” and that their claims were therefore time-barred.
California District Court Rules Antitrust Claims Against Hollywood Foreign Press Don’t Make Final Cut
On March 23, 2021, Judge Stanley Blumenfeld, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed amended antitrust claims brought by two entertainment journalists against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (“HFPA”). Flaa v. Hollywood Foreign Press Ass’n, No. 2:20-cv-06974-SB (C.D. Cal. Mar. 23, 2021).
Ninth Circuit Reverses Class Certification Based On District Court’s Failure To Resolve Factual Issues Relating To Uninjured Class Members
On April 6, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated a district court order certifying three classes in a multi-district antitrust case alleging a price-fixing conspiracy by producers of packaged tuna, finding that the district court erred in determining that plaintiffs had satisfied to the predominance requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). Olean Wholesale Grocery Coop v. Bumble Bee Foods, No. 19-56514 (9th Cir. Apr. 6, 2021). Specifically, the Court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in declining to resolve whether plaintiffs’ proposed use of statistical evidence to establish classwide impact swept a substantial number of uninjured purchasers into the putative class. A class cannot be certified, the Court held, when it contains more than a “de minimis” number of uninjured purchasers.
NCAA Athletes’ Case Goes To Highest Court In The Land: The Supreme Court Hears Argument On Sherman Act Challenge To NCAA Eligibility Rules On Compensation For Student-Athletes
On March 31, 2021, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in the consolidated cases National Collegiate Athletic Associate v. Alston
(No. 20-520) and American Athletic Conference v. Alston
(No. 20-512). These cases were previously covered as part of our preview of the current Supreme Court term
. Plaintiffs below – NCAA student-athletes – challenged the NCAA’s limits on education-related benefits to student athletes as unreasonable restraints on competition for the student-athletes’ services that violated Section One of the Sherman Act. After a lengthy trial, the district court agreed and entered an injunction in favor of plaintiffs. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding that the district court had properly applied the rule of reason to the challenged rules, that the rules had significant anticompetitive effects, and that plaintiffs had established that less restrictive alternatives to the existing rules were viable in that they were “virtually as effective” in achieving the procompetitive purposes of the joint venture. The case-specific issue presented to the Supreme Court is whether the Ninth Circuit erred in affirming the district court’s judgment that the NCAA eligibility rules regarding compensation of student-athletes violated the Sherman Act. But the case may have broader implications in how courts analyze a joint venture’s restraints on competition under the rule of reason, including how courts should evaluate claims that a defendant joint venture could have or should have used less restrictive means to accomplish its procompetitive goal.
Southern District Of New York Dismisses Competitor’s Sherman Act Claims Against Fintech Company For Lack Of Antitrust Standing
On March 31, 2021, Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a ten-count complaint alleging that defendant financial technology companies, Advent Software Inc. and its parent company, SS&C Technologies Holdings Inc. (collectively “defendant”), violated, inter alia, Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act by refusing to renew a software license with one of its competitors and engaging in so-called “exclusive dealing arrangements” that allegedly foreclosed the competitor from the marketplace. Arcesium, LLC v. Advent Software, Inc., 1:20-cv-04389 (MKV) (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2021). The Court found that plaintiff Arcesium LLC (“plaintiff”), a technology company that licensed defendant’s portfolio accounting software, but competed with them in providing related “post-trade solutions” (technology and services used to provide middle- and back-office support for investment funds and fund administrators), failed to adequately plead antitrust standing.
Maryland District Court Refuses To Send Poultry Workers’ Claims To Chopping Block In Wage Fixing Class Action
On March 10, 2021, Judge Stephanie Gallagher of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland denied defendants’ motions to dismiss antitrust claims brought by a putative class of poultry workers asserting that poultry processing companies unlawfully exchanged compensation data and conspired to fix and depress employee wages. Jien v. Perdue Farms, Inc., No. 1:19-CV-2521-SAG (D. Md. March 10, 2021).
Third Circuit Dismisses Sherman Act And RICO Claims Against Certification Board
On February 25, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a district court’s ruling that the American Board of Internal Medicine (“defendant”) did not violate Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). Kenney v. Am. Bd. of Internal Med., No. 20-1007, 2021 WL 732715 (3d Cir. Feb. 25, 2021). Among other things, the Third Circuit found that a group of physicians (“plaintiffs”) did not plausibly allege that defendant impermissibly tied together initial physician certifications with the regular renewals of the same certifications. These regular renewals are known as maintenance of certification (“MOC”). The Third Circuit also found that plaintiffs did not plausibly allege that defendant utilized monopoly power to require plaintiffs to purchase MOCs.