Menu
Browse Options
Slower Crony Capitalism: The Immediate Aftermath of NC Board

When the FTC prevailed in narrowing the state action exemption in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners in February 2015, the hope of many commentators was that the result might be a reduction in excessive or unnecessary local regulation. While that still might be the ultimate result, the immediate reaction of some state legislatures has been to add a layer of bureaucratic oversight to ensure “active supervision.” So the case, so far, has expanded application of the federal antitrust laws, triggered more lawsuits and resulted in more, not less, state oversight of economic activity.

The state action exemption is easy to summarize but difficult to apply: bona fide state regulation of th [...]

The Roberts Court, Enforcement Agencies and “The Limits of Antitrust”

Finding a unifying theory to explain (almost) all the decisions of the Supreme Court in a substantive area can be a difficult task. Alden Abbott and Thom Lambert’s new article accomplishes it for the antitrust decisions of the Roberts Court.[1] They contend that these opinions can be seen as the Court implementing Professor (now Judge) Easterbrook’s seminal 1984 article The Limits of Antitrust.[2] By comparison, the authors believe that the enforcement agencies in the same time period have shown less deference to any such limits. While that conflict might portend future difficulties for the agencies in front of the Court, the one acknowledged exception to the theory was a big win for the [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Antitrust Law and Effects on Innovation, Quality and the Labor Market

Antitrust law debates usually emphasize price effects while other elements of competition get less attention.  Three recent writings by leading antitrust thinkers, however, explore the interaction between antitrust law and competition, on the one hand, and innovation, quality and long-term labor markets, respectively, on the other.  As summarized below, each piece discusses an attribute of competition other than price that might be used to provide a more accurate description of the dynamic competitive effects in any market.

Professors Spencer Weber Waller and Matthew Sag of Loyola University Chicago School of Law discuss competition law and Promoting Innovation in the Iowa Law Review.  (A [...]

State Regulation or Merely a “Gauzy Cloak”: A Preview of the North Carolina Board Oral Argument in the Supreme Court

On October 14, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, the latest in its long line of cases interpreting the state action exemption to the antitrust laws.  Dozens of amici have written briefs supporting both parties.  Those briefs reveal significantly different opinions about the costs and benefits of state licensure boards and how their actions should be treated under the antitrust laws.

The state action exemption can be quickly summarized:  bona fide state regulation of the economy, even if anticompetitive, is exempt from the federal antitrust laws.  Such a quick summary, however, belies the complexities explored in numerous Court [...]

Proposed Settlement Rejected in FTC Challenge to Georgia Hospital Combination; Matter Returns to Administrative Litigation

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 [...]

FTC/DOJ Workshop on Conditional Pricing Practices – Good as Far as It Goes

On June 23, 2014, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division held a workshop on “conditional pricing practices”—loyalty discounts, bundled discounts and similar pricing techniques.  Many economists, academic experts and practitioners, some of them even hailing from outside the Beltway, opined on the rationale for and against antitrust legality of such common marketing practices.  The agencies are to be congratulated for leading this discussion and advancing the thinking on this important topic; still, real-world businesses continue to look for clearer guidance than what has been provided by the agencies and courts to date, but the conference promis [...]

Is the FTC Changing Its Intellectual Property Rights Policy?

Commissioner Josh Wright of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission certainly is the gift that keeps on giving to antitrust commentators.  Rarely do many weeks go by without a Wright speech or dissenting opinion that cogently takes on an interesting competition issue, often one captured in an action by his fellow commissioners.  Last month’s example was a speech to the New York City Bar Association provocatively titled, “Does the FTC Have a New IP Agenda?”  Wright believes the answer to his question is “yes,” and that the shift is not helpful.  Much of the support for Wright’s assertion of a change comes from two FTC matters that predate his tenure and alarmed the business communit [...]

Contributors, Authors, Books, & More...