Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
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The Supreme Court held that Netflix Inc. and Hulu, LLC (together, Defendants) were not video-service providers under the Fair Competition in Cable Operations Act, Ohio Rev. Code 1332.21 (the Act) and that the Act did not expressly or impliedly give the City of Maple Heights the authority to bring a cause of action such as the one at issue in this case.The City of Maple Heights filed a federal class action and declaratory judgment lawsuit against Netflix and Hulu in federal court asserting that Defendants were in violation of the Act. Defendants moved separately to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that their streaming services did not fall within the Act. The federal court certified two state-law questions for Supreme Court review. The Court answered (1) Netflix and Hulu were not service providers under Ohio law; and (2) the Act did not grant Maple Heights either an express or an implied right to bring an action against Defendants to enforce Ohio's video service provider provisions. View "City of Maple Heights v. Netlix, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is a federal law that nationalizes governance of the thoroughbred horseracing industry. To formulate detailed rules on an array of topics, HISA empowers a private entity called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (the “Authority”), which operates under Federal Trade Commission oversight. Soon after its passage, HISA was challenged by various horsemen’s associations, which were later joined by Texas and the state’s racing commission. Plaintiffs argued HISA is facially unconstitutional because it delegates government power to a private entity without sufficient agency supervision. The district court acknowledged that the plaintiffs’ “concerns are legitimate,” that HISA has “unique features,” and that its structure “pushes the boundaries of public-private collaboration.” Nonetheless, the court rejected the private non-delegation challenge.   The Fifth Circuit declared that the HISA is unconstitutional because it violates the private non-delegation doctrine. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded. The court explained that while acknowledging the Authority’s “sweeping” power, the district court thought it was balanced by the FTC’s “equally” sweeping oversight. Not so. HISA restricts FTC review of the Authority’s proposed rules. If those rules are “consistent” with HISA’s broad principles, the FTC must approve them. And even if it finds an inconsistency, the FTC can only suggest changes. What’s more, the FTC concedes it cannot review the Authority’s policy choices. The Authority’s power outstrips any private delegation the Supreme Court or the Fifth Circuit has allowed. Thus the court declared HISA facially unconstitutional. View "National Horsemen's Benevolent v. Black" on Justia Law

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Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. and Blenheim Capital Partners Ltd., Guernsey-based companies (collectively, “Blenheim”), commenced this action against Lockheed Martin Corporation, Airbus Defence and Space SAS, and the Republic of Korea and its Defense Acquisition Program Administration (the last two, collectively, “South Korea”), alleging that Defendants conspired to “cut it out” as the broker for a large, complex international military procurement transaction.   Blenheim alleged that the defendants (1) tortiously interfered with its brokerage arrangement and its prospective business expectations; (2) conspired to do so; (3) were unjustly enriched; and (4) conspired to violate federal and state antitrust laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). With respect to the tort claims, it concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction by reason of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because South Korea was presumptively immune from jurisdiction under the Act and had not been engaged in “commercial activity,”   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the offset transaction was not commercial activity as excepted from the immunity from jurisdiction conferred in the FSIA, accordingly the court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over Blenheim’s tort claims. Further, because Blenheim felt adverse impacts immediately upon Lockheed’s October 2016 termination of the brokerage agreement, the date of the satellite launch is not relevant to the date when the cause of action accrued. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that Blenheim’s antitrust claims are barred by the applicable four-year statute of limitations. View "Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. v. Lockheed Martin Corporation" on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the issue presented for review required an interpretation and application of the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d). Jonathan Carr registered five domain names that included variations of the identifying marks of the Mississippi Lottery Corporation (MLC). After an unfavorable decision from a national arbitration board, Carr brought a reverse domain name hijacking claim against the MLC, which countersued for cybersquatting. The Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed Carr’s first appeal in this case for lack of a final appealable judgment. Carr appealed the trial judge’s Order Granting and Denying Motions for Injunctive Relief, Order on Motion for New Trial, or In the Alternative, Motion for a Trial By Jury, and Order on Motion for New Trial and/or In the Alternative, to Alter or Amend the Judgment. After a careful review of federal and state law, the Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the trial court on all issues. View "Carr v. Mississippi Lottery Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this putative class action against more than twenty banks and brokers, alleging a conspiracy to manipulate two benchmark rates known as Yen-LIBOR and Euroyen TIBOR. Plaintiff brought claims under the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”), and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and sought leave to assert claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). The district court dismissed the CEA and antitrust claims and denied leave to add the RICO claims. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court erred by holding that the CEA claims were impermissibly extraterritorial, that he lacked antitrust standing to assert a Sherman Act claim, and that he failed to allege proximate causation for his proposed RICO claims.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the conduct—i.e., that the bank defendants presented fraudulent submissions to an organization based in London that set a benchmark rate related to a foreign currency—occurred almost entirely overseas. Indeed, Plaintiff fails to allege any significant acts that took place in the United States. Plaintiff’s CEA claims are based predominantly on foreign conduct and are thus impermissibly extraterritorial. Further, the court wrote that the district court also correctly concluded that Plaintiff lacked antitrust standing because he would not be an efficient enforcer of the antitrust laws. Lastly, the court agreed that Plaintiff failed to allege proximate causation for his RICO claims. View "Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al." on Justia Law

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Defendants JABA Associates LP and its general partners appealed the district court’s judgment granting summary judgment to Plaintiff, (“Trustee”), pursuant to the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 (“SIPA”). JABA was a good faith customer of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (“BLMIS”) and held BLMIS Account Number 1EM357 (the “JABA Account”). The Trustee brought this action to recover the allegedly fictitious profits transferred from BLMIS to Defendants in the two years prior to BLMIS’s filing for bankruptcy. The district court granted recovery of $2,925,000 that BLMIS transferred to Defendants in the two years prior to BLMIS’s filing for bankruptcy, which made it recoverable property under SIPA.Defendants appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The Second Appellate District affirmed reasoning that because is no genuine dispute of material fact that Bernard L. Madoff transferred the assets of his business to Defendants, which made it recoverable property under SIPA, the district court properly granted summary judgment to Plaintiff. The court reasoned that here Here, Defendants argue that the Bankruptcy Code does not authorize an award of prejudgment interest because the statute is silent. Yet Defendants do not make any argument that this silence is dispositive. Further, the court wrote that prejudgment interest has been awarded against other similarly situated defendants in related SIPA litigation. Thus, the district court appropriately balanced the equities between the parties. Given this, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting an award of 4 percent prejudgment interest to the Trustee. View "In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC" on Justia Law

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BRFHH Shreveport sued Willis-Knighton Medical Center for antitrust violations. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held (A) BRF’s Section 1 claim fails because BRF hasn’t plausibly alleged an agreement between Willis-Knighton and LSU. Then the court held (B) BRF’s Section 2 claim fails because BRF hasn’t plausibly alleged market foreclosure.   The court explained that BRF’s complaint fails because the complaint alleges that Willis-Knighton’s exclusive dealing arrangement affected the upstream market for physician services. Then the complaint alleges foreclosure in the downstream medical services market. But BRF doesn’t adequately connect the two. First, the complaint already chose which market to allege. And it chose to focus on downstream markets for healthcare services—not the upstream market for physicians. BRF can’t change horses midstream. Second, though the complaint asserts that BRF had no choice but to get physicians from LSU, it admits this was a pre-existing “provision in the hospital by-laws.” So even if the restriction threatened substantial foreclosure— which BRF hasn’t alleged—BRF still would’ve failed to plead causation. View "BRFHH Shreveport v. Willis-Knighton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the administrative hearing commission (AHC) finding beyond Housing, Inc. and Pagedale Town Center II, LLC (PTC II) qualify for sales and use tax exemptions as charitable organizations pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.030.2(19), holding that the AHC's decision was proper.On appeal, the director of the department of revenue argued, among other things, that the HAC erred in determining that Beyond Housing and PTC II could qualify as a charitable organization because Beyond Housing was previously granted civic exemptions and, the director claimed, the statutory categories of charitable and civic exemptions are mutually exclusive classifications. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the AHC did not err in finding Beyond Housing and PTC II qualified for the charitable exemption; and (2) the AHC’s determination that Beyond Housing and PTC II qualified for sales and use tax exemptions as charities was supported by competent and substantial evidence and comported with the law. View "Beyond Housing, Inc. v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Mayfield manufactures a football helmet accessory that purportedly reduces the severity of football helmet impact when it is installed on an existing football helmet. Mayfield sued the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), a nonprofit organization that develops and promotes safety standards for athletic equipment. It has a safety certification that can be applied to football helmets that meet NOCSAE’s standards. NOCSAE does not permit manufacturers of helmet accessories to seek certification separately from the helmet manufacturers.Mayfield alleged that NOCSAE and helmet manufacturers are restraining trade in the football helmet market, engaging in an overarching conspiracy to limit competition, and subjecting Mayfield to tortious interference of business relationships or expectations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. In its claims under the Sherman Act section 1, Mayfield cited scenarios, theories, and occurrences and asked the court to make "sweeping conclusions" about the motives and actions of the defendants. An “explicit agreement,” as required for Sherman Act liability, "should not demand this kind of intellectual leap." The defendants have shown that their desire to protect their reputations and sell safe products is a legitimate business interest. View "Hobart-Mayfield, Inc. v. National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment" on Justia Law

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Appellants (the “Bullion Traders”) are a collection of in-state and out-of-state precious metal traders or representatives thereof challenging the constitutionality of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 80G, which regulates bullion transactions. The Bullion Traders argue the statute violates the dormant Commerce Clause.   The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s partial grant of the Commissioner’s motion to dismiss and the district court’s partial denial of the Bullion Traders’ motion for summary judgment. On remand, the court left to the district court to decide in the first instance whether the extraterritorial provisions of Chapter 80G, as amended, are severable from the remainder of the statute.   The court explained that certain in-state obligations, such as a registration fee for traders doing business in Minnesota, even when calculated considering out-of-state transactions, do not control out-of-state commerce. However, Chapter 80G does not merely burden in-state dealers with a monetary obligation that considers both in-state and out-of-state transactions. Rather, it prohibits an in-state dealer who meets the $25,000 threshold from conducting any bullion transaction, including out-of-state transactions, without first registering with the Commissioner. View "Thomas Styczinski v. Grace Arnold" on Justia Law