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Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Clarify Application of Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court was asked, in parallel petitions, to resolve a split between the Seventh Circuit and the Ninth Circuit on the application of the federal antitrust laws to a conspiracy to fix prices of thin-film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels. The petitions provide an excellent opportunity for the High Court to offer needed guidance on the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (FTAIA), which the Court last took up just over a decade ago in F. Hoffmann-LaRoche Ltd. v. Empagran S.A., 542 U.S. 155, 2004-1 Trade Cases ¶74,448.

In a petition for certiorari filed on March 16, Taiwanese electronics manufacturer AU Optronics Corporation, two of its former of [...]

United Kingdom: Competition Appeals – Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?

It is not uncommon, where a multi-party infringement of competition law has been established and sanctioned by a competition authority for some, but not all, of the addressees of the authority’s decision to appeal that decision.  Those appeals can be against the finding of infringement, whether in whole or part, and/or the penalty imposed.  Where those appeals are successful, non-appealing parties may then wish to themselves challenge the finding of infringement and/or the penalty, availing of the judgments already handed down in favour of their co-cartellists or co-infringers of competition law.

In a series of judgments, concerning decisions by the Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”) in [...]

Costco v. J&J: The Latest and Largest in a Long Line of Pricing Cases

It’s not often that one Fortune 50 company sues another – but that’s what happened earlier this week when Costco sued Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in California federal court over J&J’s attempts to limit Costco’s resale prices of J&J’s contact lenses.  For antitrust practitioners, however, the case is of interest because of its potential lessons about manufacturers’ efforts regarding resale prices.  Initially, however, the case might provide more lessons about another age-old antitrust question – what’s sufficient to allege and then prove agreement?

Some manufacturers seem to think the struggle to control resale prices began with Amazon and the Internet.  Antitrust law, howev [...]

North Carolina Dentists is in the Hizzouse, Y’all! Woot Woot!

So, the only real surprise about yesterday’s opinion in North Carolina State Bd of Dental Examiners v. FTC is that it wasn’t unanimous.  The strongly worded six-member majority opinion, already receiving early applause (see here and here), is further proof that the only thing the current Supreme Court dislikes more than antitrust plaintiffs is state government pork.

For those of us passionate dorks who follow immunities issues closely (I, for one, only recently emerged from the ashes of this epic book project), North Carolina State Board is a candy store, really much more so than the Court’s other very recent, pro-enforcement state action smackdown, FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health Sys., I [...]

European Commission Dawn Raids—Advocate General Recommends the Avoidance of “Fishing Expeditions”

Earlier this month, Advocate General Wahl delivered his opinion in the Deutsche Bahn[1] case. This case concerns important practical principles which govern the conduct of European Commission dawn raids (on-the-spot surprise inspections used to investigate possible infringements of the EU competition rules). In particular, the case focusses on what inspectors can do with documents that they have found during an inspection which do not relate to the subject matter of their inspection, but indicate separate unrelated anti-competitive behaviour.

Business needs to review closely this opinion (and final judgment in this case) to ensure that their dawn raid procedures and training reflect best pra [...]

So Maybe the Robinson-Patman Act Isn’t Dead After All

Woodman’s Food Market is a chain of warehouse-style grocery stores in Wisconsin. As such, its sales strategy was similar to that employed by Costco and Sam’s Club: the ability to purchase groceries at lower prices by purchasing in large size containers. However, Woodman’s did not charge a membership fee as a prerequisite to shopping at its stores.

On Sept. 9, 2014, Woodman’s met with a representative of the Clorox Company who advised that as of Oct. 1, Woodman’s would no longer be able to purchase these large packs of products, since the Clorox had decided that it would recategorize Woodman’s into its “General Market” retailers, i.e., as an ordinary grocery store. This was pa [...]

In re LIBOR: ‘More Light, Please!’—Questions and Observations As the Decision Dismissing Antitrust Claims for Lack of Antitrust Injury Now Faces Appellate Review

(An in-depth article on In re LIBOR and antitrust injury is available here under this titleThe following is a preview of my article).

(N.B.:  In a coincidence of timing, on Jan. 28, 2015, the date of this posting and publication of the linked article, Judge Lorna Schofield of the federal district court for the Southern District of New York, in a case alleging a conspiracy to manipulate the benchmark rates in the $5.3 trillion/day foreign exchange market, denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss and expressly rejected the test used by the court in In re LIBOR for determining antitrust injury, discussed below.  In re Foreign Exchange Benchmark Rates Antitrust Litigation (S.D.N.Y. 1/28 [...]

Bridging the Gap? Canada Takes on Cross-Border Price Discrimination

The Canadian government is determined to remedy what it (and many Canadians) regard as an unjustified gap between US and Canadian prices for the same goods. In particular, the government has focused on what it perceives to be unjustified “country pricing” or “cross-border price discrimination”, ie, businesses charging more for goods sold in Canada than in the US beyond what might be justified by the allegedly higher costs of doing business in Canada.

The government’s interest in this issue followed a report by the Canadian Senate in February 2013 which tentatively concluded that the segmentation of the Canadian and US markets “reduces competition and allows some manufacturers – [...]

McWane in the 11th Circuit: When Is Exclusive Dealing Anticompetitive?

Who would have thought that ductile iron pipe fittings would make for such an interesting antitrust case?  While the product might be prosaic, the convoluted facts of the McWane v. FTC case in the 11th Circuit could be used as a law school exam question (and some of us already have).  The issues are now boiled down to one of the most controversial ones in antitrust:  when is an exclusive dealing arrangement by a monopolist anticompetitive?  The appeal of the FTC’s finding of liability is now fully briefed and awaiting oral argument late next week – but it is Commissioner Josh Wright’s dissent from that finding that continues to drive the parties and their respective amicus supporte [...]

A Look Back at U.S. Antitrust Enforcement in 2014

The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division had another active year in antitrust enforcement in 2014.

As for FTC antitrust enforcement efforts, FTC Bureau of Competition Director Deborah L. Feinstein was kind enough to provide a list of the “Ten Competition Happenings for 2014” on the agency’s Competition Matters blog. Her list included four enforcement actions that are worth a second look:

(1) the FTC’s action against two leading propane exchange tank suppliers for allegedly coordinating to reduce the amount of propane in their tanks sold to Walmart (In the Matter of Ferrellgas Partners, L.P., FTC Dkt. 9360);

(2) the Commission’s challenge to the (now aband [...]

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