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 [...]
The FTC has notched two Supreme Court wins in recent years to narrow the state action exemption. But elements of those two cases might best be seen as evidence that the FTC is losing the broader fight: increasing antitrust compliance by convincing non-experts of the wisdom of antitrust’s principles.
Here’s a quick refresher on the two cases in question:
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 [...]
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 [...]
Earlier this month, Advocate General Wahl delivered his opinion in the Deutsche Bahn 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 [...]
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 [...]
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 – [...]
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 [...]
Just over a year ago, I wrote (rather extensively) on the European Commission’s public consultation entitled “Towards more effective EU Merger Control” in which the Commission proposed to (i) expand its powers to review non-controlling minority interests and (ii) streamline the case referral system between the European Commission and NCAs.
Our regular readers will note that Mark Jones alerted them to the European Commission’s second public consultation on this subject. As Mark noted, the deadline for this consultation closes on 3 October 2014.
The purpose of this post is not to repeat Mark’s (or indeed my prior 2013 post). Rather I thought that it may be useful to put down some tho [...]
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 [...]