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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
U.S. District Court For The District Of New Jersey Dismisses Class Action For Failure To Identify Concerted Action And Relevant Market
01/23/2018On January 9, 2018, Judge William J. Martini of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed with prejudice a putative class action brought by a purchaser of Jaguar vehicles against Jaguar Land Rover North America LLC, Jaguar Land Rover Limited (collectively, the “manufacturer defendants”), their dealers, and a third-party consulting company. Baar v. Jaguar Land Rover North Am., LLC, et al., No. 2:17-04142 (D.N.J. Jan. 9, 2018). Plaintiff alleged that defendants unreasonably restrained trade by implementing and enforcing a no-export agreement that prohibited purchasers from reselling Jaguar’s vehicles abroad for at least one year. The Court held that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a violation of federal or state antitrust laws because it did not adequately allege (1) concerted action among the defendants, or (2) that Jaguar’s no-export policy produced anticompetitive effects within a cognizable antitrust product and geographic market.
Administrative Law Judge Upholds FTC Complaint Alleging That 1-800 Contacts Violated Section 5 Of The FTC Act By Unlawfully Restricting Online Competitor Advertising Through Anticompetitive Settlement Agreements
On October 27, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission announced a ruling by Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell finding that online contact lens retailer 1-800 Contacts unlawfully restrained competition in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act by restricting its competitors’ online search-based advertising through series of settlement agreements resolving trademark litigation it had filed against those competitors. In the Matter of 1-800 Contacts, Inc., Docket No. 9372 (U.S. Trade Commission, Oct. 27, 2017). In upholding the FTC’s complaint, ALJ Chappell found that the FTC had proved that the restrictions on the use of certain keywords in search-based advertising caused actual harm to consumers and competition in the market for the online sale of contact lenses in the United States and that the respondent 1-800 Contacts had failed to prove that the settlement agreements had countervailing procompetitive benefits that outweighed their harm to competition. As relief, the ALJ issued a broad remedial order prohibiting 1-800 Contacts from, inter alia, entering into any agreement that restricts a competitor’s ability to participate in search advertising auctions. Just as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis, Inc., 133 S. Ct. 2223 (2013), raised difficult questions as to how litigants could resolve patent disputes over pharmaceutical products, this decision raises difficult questions over potential settlements of trademark disputes, particularly in the context of internet search advertising.
Eastern District Of North Carolina Finds Plaintiff Plausibly Pleads Tying Claims In Foam Insulation Antitrust Case
On October 24, 2017, Judge Terrence W. Boyle of the Eastern District of North Carolina declined to dismiss monopolization and other antitrust claims based on alleged tying and exclusive dealing of foam insulation products against Armacell, Inc. K-Flex, Inc. v. Armacell, Inc., No. 5:17-CV-279-BO (E.D.N.C. Oct. 24, 2017). The Court held that plaintiff K-Flex, Inc.’s complaint plausibly alleged that Armacell violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1 & 2), Section 3 of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 14), and North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (N.C.G.S.A. § 75-1.1), by conditioning sales of one product – polyethylene or “PE” foam insulation, as to which Armacell had substantial market power – on the distributor’s agreement to purchase a second type of insulation product – elastomeric foam insulation - exclusively from Armacell and coercing a distributor to terminate the plaintiff. The opinion is notable in sustaining a monopolization claim against a manufacturer based largely on an alleged exclusive dealing/tying arrangement with a single regional distributor.