Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries
In re: Mexican Government Bonds Antitrust Litigation
In this case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the plaintiffs were U.S. investors who purchased Mexican government bonds. They alleged that the defendants, Mexican branches of several multinational banks, conspired to fix the prices of the bonds. The defendants sold the bonds to the plaintiffs through non-party broker-dealers. The defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, and the District Court granted the motion, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction as the alleged misconduct, price-fixing of bonds, occurred solely in Mexico.Upon appeal, the Second Circuit vacated and remanded the case. The court found that the defendants had sufficient minimum contacts with New York as they had solicited and executed bond sales through their agents, the broker-dealers. The plaintiffs' claims arose from or were related to these contacts. The court rejected the defendants' argument that the alleged wrongdoing must occur in the jurisdiction for personal jurisdiction to exist, stating that the defendants' alleged active sales of price-fixed bonds through their agents in New York sufficed to establish personal jurisdiction. The court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "In re: Mexican Government Bonds Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law
In re Treasury Securities Auction Antitrust Litigation
A group of 18 pension and retirement funds and other investors alleged that 10 large banks conspired to rig U.S. Treasury auctions and boycott the emergence of direct, "all-to-all" trading between buy-side investors on the secondary market for Treasuries. The alleged conspiracies violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The investors failed to demonstrate that the banks formed an anticompetitive agreement, which is necessary to plead their antitrust claims. The allegations of wrongful information-sharing amounted to inconsequential market chatter and their statistical analyses were not sufficiently focused on the defendant banks. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the lawsuit, agreeing that the investors failed to plausibly allege that the banks engaged in a conspiracy to rig Treasury auctions or to conduct a boycott on the secondary market. View "In re Treasury Securities Auction Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law
Chicoine v. Wellmark, Inc.
In this case, three chiropractors and their respective business entities sued Wellmark, Iowa’s largest health insurer and claims administrator, alleging that the company violated Iowa antitrust laws through its Administrative Service Agreements with over 400 Iowa employers who self-fund healthcare benefits for their employees. The chiropractors argued that without these agreements, the self-funded employers would compete independently for chiropractic services, resulting in higher profits for chiropractors. The chiropractors filed a motion to certify a class of approximately 1,300 Iowa chiropractors. However, the Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the district court's decision to deny class certification, concluding that the chiropractors failed to meet the predominance requirement for class certification as they could not prove the threshold issue of antitrust injury on a classwide basis. The court found that proving whether individual chiropractors would be better or worse off without Wellmark’s agreements would require numerous mini-trials, and thus, individual questions predominated over common questions. Additionally, the court applied the doctrine of judicial estoppel to prevent the chiropractors from belatedly reviving a different liability theory that they had previously abandoned to avoid a motion to dismiss. View "Chicoine v. Wellmark, Inc." on Justia Law
State ex rel. Raoul v. Elite Staffing, Inc.
In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, the State of Illinois, represented by the Attorney General, alleged that Elite Staffing, Inc., Metro Staff, Inc., and Midway Staffing, Inc. (collectively, the staffing agencies) violated the Illinois Antitrust Act. The agencies, which supplied temporary workers to a company called Colony Display, were claimed to have agreed to fix wages for their employees at below-market rates and agreed not to hire each other's employees. The staffing agencies argued that the Act did not apply to the charged conduct, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court for interlocutory review.The Supreme Court held that the Illinois Antitrust Act does not exempt agreements between competitors to hold down wages and to limit employment opportunities for their employees from antitrust scrutiny. For the purposes of the Act, the court clarified that "service" does not exclude all agreements concerning labor services. It particularly noted that multiemployer agreements concerning wages they will pay their employees and whether they will hire each other's employees may violate the Act unless the agreement arises as part of the bargaining process and the affected employees, through their collective bargaining representatives, have sought to bargain with the multiemployer unit.The court vacated the appellate court’s answer to a question it had formulated and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "State ex rel. Raoul v. Elite Staffing, Inc." on Justia Law
Campfield v. Safelite Group, Inc.
In a dispute between Ultra Bond, Inc., and its owner, Richard Campfield (collectively "Ultra Bond"), and Safelite Group, Inc. and its affiliates (collectively "Safelite"), both parties operate in the vehicle glass repair and replacement industry. Ultra Bond alleges that Safelite violated the Lanham Act by falsely advertising that windshield cracks longer than six inches could not be safely repaired and instead required replacement of the entire windshield. Safelite counterclaims that Ultra Bond stole trade secrets from Safelite in violation of state and federal law.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the district court was incorrect to grant summary judgment to Safelite on Ultra Bond’s Lanham Act claim. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Safelite's allegedly false statements may have caused economic injury to Ultra Bond, and this issue should go to a jury.The court also affirmed the district court's decision that Safelite's claims for conversion, civil conspiracy, and tortious interference with contract were preempted by the Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act (OUTSA). However, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ultra Bond on Safelite’s claim under OUTSA, ruling that Safelite's claim was not time-barred and should be evaluated further in the lower court.Finally, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ultra Bond on Safelite's unfair competition claim, finding that Safelite hadn't provided enough evidence to support its claim that Ultra Bond's statements were false or that they had led to a diversion of customers from Safelite to Ultra Bond. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Campfield v. Safelite Group, Inc." on Justia Law
The State of Missouri v. The Peoples Republic of China
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in a case brought by the State of Missouri against several Chinese entities, including the government of the People's Republic of China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and others. Missouri accused the defendants of negligence in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that they allowed the virus to spread worldwide, engaged in a campaign to keep other countries from learning about the virus, and hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE). The court decided that most of Missouri's claims were blocked by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign states from lawsuits in U.S. courts. However, the court allowed one claim to proceed: the allegation that China hoarded PPE while the rest of the world was unaware of the extent of the virus. The court held that this claim fell under the "commercial activity" exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as it involved alleged anti-competitive behavior that had a direct effect in the United States. The case was remanded for further proceedings on this claim. View "The State of Missouri v. The Peoples Republic of China" on Justia Law
Winn Dixie Stores v. Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative Inc
The case involved a dispute between Winn-Dixie Stores and the Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative, Inc. (EMMC), its individual mushroom farmer members, and certain downstream distributors. Winn-Dixie accused the defendants of violating antitrust laws by engaging in a price-fixing agreement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the District Court was correct in applying the rule of reason, rather than a "quick-look" review, in assessing the legality of the defendants' pricing policy under the Sherman Act. The court found that the complex and variable nature of the arrangements within the cooperative, involving both horizontal and vertical components, necessitated a careful analysis to determine anticompetitive effects. The court also held that the jury's verdict, which found that the defendants' pricing policy did not harm competition, was not against the weight of the evidence and did not warrant a new trial. The court affirmed the District Court’s judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Winn Dixie Stores v. Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative Inc" on Justia Law
U.S. WHOLESALE OUTLET & DISTR. V. INNOVATION VENTURES, LLC
In this case, a group of California wholesale businesses, the plaintiffs, brought a lawsuit against Innovation Ventures, LLC, and Living Essentials, LLC, the defendants, under the Robinson-Patman Price Discrimination Act. The plaintiffs accused the defendants of offering less favorable pricing, discounts, and reimbursements to them than to the Costco Wholesale Corporation for the sale of 5-hour Energy drink. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s judgment.The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury that the plaintiffs needed to show that Living Essentials made “reasonably contemporaneous” sales to them and to Costco at different prices and that the price discrimination was not justified by functional discounts compensating Costco for marketing or promotional functions. The court concluded that the functional discount doctrine was available to the defendants, regardless of whether the plaintiffs and Living Essentials were on the same level in the distribution chain.However, the court vacated the district court's ruling on the plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief under section 2(d) of the Robinson-Patman Act. This section prohibits a seller from providing anything of value to one customer unless it is available on proportionally equal terms to all other competing customers. The court found that the district court committed legal and factual errors in determining that Costco and the plaintiffs operated at different functional levels and therefore competed for different customers of 5-hour Energy. The case was remanded for the district court to reconsider whether Costco and the plaintiffs purchased 5-hour Energy from Living Essentials within approximately the same period of time, or if the plaintiffs were otherwise able to prove competition. View "U.S. WHOLESALE OUTLET & DISTR. V. INNOVATION VENTURES, LLC" on Justia Law
Illumina v. FTC
In 2020, Illumina, a for-profit corporation that manufactures and sells next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms, which are crucial tools for DNA sequencing, entered into an agreement to acquire Grail, a company it had initially founded and then spun off as a separate entity in 2016. Grail specializes in developing multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests, which are designed to identify various types of cancer from a single blood sample. Illumina's acquisition of Grail was seen as a significant step toward bringing Grail’s developed MCED test, Galleri, to market.However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) objected to the acquisition, arguing that it violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions that may substantially lessen competition. The FTC contended that because all MCED tests, including those still in development, relied on Illumina’s NGS platforms, the merger would potentially give Illumina the ability and incentive to foreclose Grail’s rivals from the MCED test market.Illumina responded by creating a standardized supply contract, known as the "Open Offer," which guaranteed that it would provide its NGS platforms to all for-profit U.S. oncology customers at the same price and with the same access to services and products as Grail. Despite this, the FTC ordered the merger to be unwound.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the FTC had applied an erroneous legal standard in evaluating the impact of the Open Offer. The court ruled that the FTC should have considered the Open Offer at the liability stage of its analysis, rather than as a remedy following a finding of liability. Furthermore, the court determined that to rebut the FTC's prima facie case, Illumina was not required to show that the Open Offer would completely negate the anticompetitive effects of the merger, but rather that it would mitigate these effects to a degree that the merger was no longer likely to substantially lessen competition.The court concluded that substantial evidence supported the FTC’s conclusions regarding the likely substantial lessening of competition and the lack of cognizable efficiencies to rebut the anticompetitive effects of the merger. However, given its finding that the FTC had applied an incorrect standard in evaluating the Open Offer, the court vacated the FTC’s order and remanded the case for further consideration of the Open Offer's impact under the proper standard. View "Illumina v. FTC" on Justia Law
US v. Brent Brewbaker
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the defendant, Brent Brewbaker, appealed from his conviction of a per se antitrust violation under § 1 of the Sherman Act, as well as five counts of mail and wire fraud. Brewbaker had asked the district court to dismiss the Sherman Act count for failure to state an offense, but the court denied his motion. The court of appeals reversed Brewbaker’s Sherman Act conviction, finding that the indictment failed to state a per se antitrust offense as it purported to do. The court, however, affirmed his fraud convictions and remanded the case for resentencing.The legal basis for the case was Brewbaker's argument that the indictment should have been dismissed because it did not state a per se Sherman Act offense, a claim that the appellate court agreed with. The court explained that the indictment alleged a restraint that was both horizontal and vertical in nature, which does not fit neatly into either category as per existing case law. The court further noted that the Supreme Court had not yet clarified how to analyze an agreement between two parties with both vertical and horizontal aspects. The court concluded that the indictment did not allege a restraint that has been previously held to be per se illegal, nor one that economics showed would invariably lead to anticompetitive effects, and thus failed to state a per se violation of the Sherman Act.The court also rejected Brewbaker's claim that the jury instructions on the Sherman Act count "infected" the jury’s consideration of the fraud counts, noting that the fraud counts were not dependent on finding Brewbaker guilty under the Sherman Act. It further cited the presumption that juries follow instructions, and found no extraordinary situation to overcome this presumption. Therefore, the fraud convictions were affirmed. View "US v. Brent Brewbaker" on Justia Law