In a decision that’s received relatively little attention, a divided U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week held that the Natural Gas Act (NGA) did not “field” preempt state law antitrust claims raised by large retail buyers of natural gas seeking damages from pipelines for their purported price manipulation. Rejected was the pipelines’ argument that the claims fell within the field preempted by the NGA—“the field of matters relating to wholesale sales and transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce.” The decision could encourage antitrust lawsuits in areas where preemption concerns might have made antitrust plaintiffs otherwise reluctant.
While the Court’s seven-to-two de [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
The dangers of prematurely exercising operational control over an acquisition target, or at least appearing to operate organizational control, are highlighted by a Department of Justice Antitrust Division action announced yesterday against two particleboard suppliers that recently dropped their planned combination. Just five weeks ago, Flakeboard America Ltd. abandoned its proposed acquisition of rival SierraPine in the face of the government’s antitrust concerns. Now, the companies have agreed to pay millions to settle allegations that they engaged in premerger coordination, also known as “gun jumping,” in violation of both Sec. 7A of the Clayton Act and Sec. 1 of the Sherman Act.
The FTC’s challenge to the now-consummated combination of Phoebe Putney Health System, Inc.—the operator of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital—and rival Palmyra Park Hospital, Inc. in Albany, Georgia, is headed back to administrative litigation. More than a year after announcing a tentative settlement in the case, the FTC has refused to grant final approval to the proposed consent order. On Friday, the Commission issued an order, returning the matter to Part III litigation to determine whether the acquisition reduced competition in the market for acute-care hospital services sold to commercial health plans in a six-county area, as alleged in the agency’s 2011 complaint.
The proposed settle [...]
One firm’s ability to break into the market for “bone mills” used in spinal-fusion surgery did not foreclose the possibility that medical device company Medtronic monopolized or attempted to monopolize the bone mill market, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver ruled last week. Bone mill manufacturer Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corporation raised sufficient fact questions, including questions regarding barriers to entry, to defeat summary judgment on its monopolization and attempted monopolization claims. The August 5, 2014, decision is Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corp. v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 13-1307.
The suit follows a falling out between Lenox and Medtronic. Lenox had sold some of its bone mi [...]
The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week upheld the price fixing convictions of Taiwanese electronics manufacturer AU Optronics (AUO), its U.S. subsidiary, and two company executives. The appellate court also affirmed a $500 million fine against AUO, the only defendant to challenge the sentence. The case is U.S. v. Hsiung, No. 12-10492.
In March 2012, following an eight-week trial, a jury found AUO, AU Optronics Corporation America (AUOA), and AUO’s former president and former executive vice president guilty of conspiring to fix prices of thin-film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels. The display panels are used in flat panel computer monitors, notebook comput [...]
The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City on June 4 ruled that the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (FTAIA) barred the antitrust claims of a Taiwanese electronics manufacturing company with facilities in China against a group of foreign competitors. In its decision, the court followed the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Minn‐Chem, Inc. v. Agrium, Inc., 683 F.3d 845, 2012-1 Trade Cases ¶77,943.
The judgment of the district court dismissing Lotes Co., Ltd.’s claims was affirmed, but on alternative grounds. Even if Lotes had alleged the statutorily required “direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect” on U.S. domestic or import commerce, any such effect did not [...]
The Federal Trade Commission will soon be back to having a full complement of five commissioners. Today, the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 95 to 1, confirmed Terrell McSweeny to fill a vacancy at the agency created by the departure of Jon D. Leibowitz more than a year ago. The term runs through September 26, 2017.
The White House announced the nomination of McSweeny in June 2013. Although her nomination was not controversial, her confirmation was delayed because the Senate failed to take a vote before year’s end. In November 2013, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee had voted to report the nomination to the full Senate; however, the nomination needed to be reconsidere [...]
In case you missed some of those morning sessions at the American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law Spring Meeting last week, here are some of the highlights from the updates with federal and state enforcers.
Agency Update with the Deputy Assistant Attorneys General
There were some new faces on the panel this year at the Section’s annual update from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. In addition to changes in leadership, over the last year the Antitrust Division has seen an increase in hiring that will support its continued enforcement activities, the enforcers reported during the March 26 session.
David Gelfand and Brent Snyder are the newest deputy assistant attorneys gen [...]