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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 [...]

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 [...]

Convictions, $500 Million Fine Upheld in Price Fixing Case Against AU Optronics; Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act No Bar

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 [...]

Motion to Intervene in Government’s E-Book Case to Appeal Partial Settlement Rejected

The federal district court in New York City yesterday denied a “consumer’s” motion to intervene in the Justice Department’s action against Apple, Inc. and five publishers for allegedly conspiring to fix prices for electronic books or “e-books.” The motion was filed by Bob Kohn for the purpose of appealing from a September 6 final judgment ((CCH)  2012-2 Trade Cases ¶78,042), resolving the government’s antitrust allegations against three of the five publishers.

Kohn describes himself as a “consumer of digital goods, author of a treatise on copyright, and founder and CEO of technology companies directly involved in the digital distribution of music and e-books,” the court explained. He gain [...]

U.S. Consent Decree with Three Publishers over E-Book Pricing Approved

The federal district court in New York City yesterday approved a U.S. consent decree that resolves U.S. Department of Justice allegations against three publishers for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices for electronic books or “e-books.” The consent decree with Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., and Simon & Schuster, Inc. was found to be in the public interest.

The government alleged that the three settling publishers and two non-settling publishers–MacMillan and Penguin Group–acted collectively to switch to a new sales model for e-books known as the “agency model” and entered into functionally-identical agreements with non-settling defendant Apple, Inc., wh [...]

Seventh Circuit Sitting En Banc Reverses in Potash, Announces Second Most Important of All FTAIA Opinions, Shores Up the Text Messaging Position on Conspiracy Pleading

Well, okay, I guess there might just possibly have been an appellate decision this week of even more pressing moment, but I believe something important and very positive happened in the Seventh Circuit yesterday: the en banc reversal in Minn-Chem, Inc. v. Agrium, Inc., No. 10-1712 (7th Cir. June 27, 2012) (en banc) (“Potash II”). The court ruled that plaintiffs had pled a foreign price-fixing conspiracy that it is subject to U.S. antitrust under the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act. I suppose Potash II is itself a case primarily about FTAIA, and it is now second in importance within the FTAIA caselaw only to the Supreme Court’s Empagran ruling. But as I’ve suggested before, I [...]

Fines Mounting in Department of Justice Auto Parts Cartel Investigation

The Department of Justice today announced a total of $548 million in fines resulting from a second round of charges in the government’s ongoing investigation into collusive activity in the auto parts industry.

Two more Japanese companies have agreed to plead guilty for their roles in multiple price fixing and bid rigging conspiracies in the sale of parts to automobile manufacturers in the United States. The Antitrust Division announced that Japanese suppliers of automotive electrical components—Yazaki Corporation and DENSO Corporation—have agreed to pay a total of $548 million in criminal fines.

The latest fines, when taken together with a $200 million fine imposed last November on Fur [...]

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