Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
State v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the circuit court holding that Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi had violated Hawai'i's Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices law (UDAP) by misleading the public about the safety and efficacy of their anitplatelet drug, Plavix, holding that remand was required.The circuit court concluded that Defendants misled Hawai'i consumers by failing to warn them that Plavix was less effective for poor responders, granted the State's motion for partial summary judgment, and imposed an $834 million penalty. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the circuit court's deceptive acts or practices holding, holding that the summary judgment ruling circumscribed Defendants' ability to present a full defense and affected the penalty award, requiring a new trial; (2) affirmed the holding that Defendants committed unfair acts under UDAP; and (3) held that Defendants' procedural arguments failed. View "State v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co." on Justia Law
In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust
A putative class of over 12 million merchants brought this antitrust action under the Sherman Act against Visa U.S.A. Inc., MasterCard International Inc., and numerous banks that serve as payment-card issuers for those networks. Plaintiffs alleged that Visa and MasterCard adopted and enforced rules and practices relating to payment cards that had the combined effect of injuring merchants by allowing Visa and MasterCard to charge supracompetitive fees (known as “interchange fees”) on each payment card transaction. After nearly fifteen years of litigation, the parties agreed to a settlement of roughly $ 5.6 billion, which was approved by the district court over numerous objections. In so doing, $900,000 in service awards was granted to lead plaintiffs, and roughly $523 million was granted in attorneys’ fees. Appellants are various objectors who argue that the district court erred when it certified the class, approved the settlement, granted service awards and computed attorneys’ fees. The Second Circuit affirmed in all respects the district court’s orders to the extent they constituted a final judgment, with the exception that the court directed the district court to reduce the service award to class representatives to the extent that its size was increased by time spent in lobbying efforts that would not increase the recovery of damages. The court made no ruling as to how damages should be allocated between branded oil companies and their branded service station franchisees, the reasonableness of the special master’s ultimate findings, or the legality of releasing an as-of-yet hypothetical future claim. View "In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust" on Justia Law
PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas LLC, et al.
This appeal involves a nonjusticiable political question: who has the authority to litigate in the name of the Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. The underlying action, brought by a litigation trust on behalf of Petróleos de Venezuela, alleged conspiracy, antitrust, cybercrime, and fraud claims against various individuals and entities. After the district court dismissed the action for lack of standing and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, an entity purporting to speak for Petróleos de Venezuela sought to substitute itself as the real party in interest. The entity’s board was appointed by Nicolás Maduro, who claims to be the president of Venezuela. But the United States Department of State has concluded that Maduro is not Venezuela’s legitimate political leader. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed because the district court could not grant the motion without addressing a nonjusticiable political question. The district court cannot question the validity of then-President Guaidó’s appointment of an alternative board of directors. So, under the political-question doctrine, it was powerless to grant the Maduro entity’s motion to substitute the entity as the real party in interest in contravention of the position taken by the United States Department of State. Further, the court wrote that the district court would not have jurisdiction to conduct the requested inquiry on remand. And even if the Department of State declared today that the Maduro entity is authorized to bring suit in Petróleos de Venezuela’s name, the court would still affirm because, under Article III, a justiciable case or controversy must exist “through all stages of the litigation,” including “at the time the complaint is filed.” View "PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Relevent Sports v. U.S. Soccer Federation
Relevent Sports, LLC, a U.S.-based soccer promoter, alleges that the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (popularly known as FIFA) and the United States Soccer Federation, Inc. adopted and enforced a geographic market division policy in 2018 that unlawfully prohibits soccer leagues and teams from playing official season games outside of their home territory. Relevent claims that the 2018 policy represents an agreement among direct competitors to restrict competition in violation of federal antitrust laws. The district court concluded that Relevent failed to allege that the challenged anticompetitive conduct stemmed from a prior agreement to enter into the 2018 policy. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that a plaintiff challenging an association policy or rule that governs the conduct of the members’ separate businesses need not allege an antecedent “agreement to agree.” Because Relevent challenges the allegedly monopolistic 2018 Policy directly, it has adequately alleged concerted action. The Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act require no further allegations of an agreement to engage in concerted action for Relevent’s complaint to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Relevent Sports v. U.S. Soccer Federation" on Justia Law
In re Platinum and Palladium Antitrust Litigation
Plaintiffs are participants in the physical and derivatives markets for platinum and palladium and seek monetary and injunctive relief for violations of the antitrust laws and the Commodities Exchange Act (“CEA”). According to Plaintiffs, Defendants—mostly foreign companies engaged in trading these metals—manipulated the benchmark prices for platinum and palladium by collusively trading on the futures market to depress the price of these metals and by abusing the process for setting the benchmark prices. Defendants allegedly benefited from this conduct via trading in the physical markets and holding short positions in the futures market. The district court held that it had personal jurisdiction over two of the foreign Defendants, but it dismissed Plaintiffs’ antitrust claims for lack of antitrust standing and the Plaintiffs’ CEA claims for being impermissibly extraterritorial. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of these claims. The Second Circuit reversed in part, vacated in part, and affirmed in part. The court reversed the district court’s holding that the “Exchange Plaintiffs” lacked antitrust standing to sue for the manipulation of the New York Mercantile Exchange futures market in platinum and palladium. The court explained that as traders in that market, the Exchange Plaintiffs are the most efficient enforcers of the antitrust laws for that injury. But the court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that KPFF Investment, Inc. did not have antitrust standing. Additionally, the court vacated the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ CEA claims. View "In re Platinum and Palladium Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law
Home Depot USA Inc v. Lafarge North America Inc
Direct purchasers of drywall—not including Home Depot—sued seven drywall suppliers for conspiring to fix prices. Those cases were centralized in multi-district litigation. Home Depot was a member of the putative class. Georgia-Pacific was not sued. Before class-certification or dispositive motions were filed, a settlement with defendants USG and TIN was certified. Home Depot did not opt-out. Lafarge settled. The court certified a new settlement class; Home Depot opted out. The court later certified a new settlement class with respect to the remaining defendants with terms similar to the USG/TIN settlement—preserving the right of class members to pursue claims against alleged co-conspirators other than the settling defendants. Home Depot remained in the settlement class. The court entered judgment.Home Depot then sued Lafarge. Home Depot never bought drywall from Lafarge, but argued that Lafarge was liable for the overcharges Home Depot paid its suppliers; its expert opined that the pricing behaviors of Lafarge and other suppliers, including USG, CertainTeed, and Georgia-Pacific, were indicative of a conspiracy to fix prices. The court struck the expert report, citing issue preclusion and the law of the case, noting the grant of summary judgment to CertainTeed, that Georgia-Pacific had not previously been sued, and that alleged conspirator USG settled early in the class action.The Third Circuit vacated. Issue preclusion applies only to matters which were actually litigated and decided between the parties or their privies. Home Depot was not a party (or privy) to any of the relevant events. Two of the three events to which it was “bound” were not judicial decisions. The law of the case doctrine applies only to prior decisions made in the same case. View "Home Depot USA Inc v. Lafarge North America Inc" on Justia Law
Federal Trade Commission v. Steven J. Dorfman
The Federal Trade Commission (the “Commission”) alleges that Defendant and his six companies engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Relying on its authority under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, the Commission obtained a preliminary injunction that included an asset freeze and the imposition of a receiver. Defendant argued that the preliminary injunction must be dissolved because a recent Supreme Court decision undermines the Commission’s Section 13(b) authority. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the order denying Defendant’s emergency motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction. The court explained that Defendant urged the court to read AMG Capital as a signal to interpret the FTC Act with a view to “reigning in the FTC’s power.” But, the court wrote, that AMG Capital teaches the court to read the FTC Act to “mean what it says.” 141 S. Ct. at 1349. In AMG Capital, that meant limiting Section 13(b)’s provision for a “permanent injunction” to injunctive relief. Here, that means recognizing the broad scope of relief available under Section 19. When the Commission enforces a rule, Section 19 grants the district court jurisdiction to offer relief “necessary to redress injury to consumers.” To preserve funds for consumers, the Commission sought to freeze Defendant’s assets and impose a receivership over his companies. Section 19 allows such relief. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Steven J. Dorfman" on Justia Law
New Orleans Assoc v. New Orleans Arch
Plaintiff ACTGC brought federal antitrust and various state law claims in a suit concerning tours of two New Orleans cemeteries, Defendant New Orleans Archdiocesan Cemeteries d.b.a. New Orleans Catholic Cemeteries (“NOAC”) and Defendant Cemetery Tours NOLA LLC (“CTN”). ACTGC also requested injunctive relief, which the district court denied, and ACTGC first appealed. The district court then dismissed ACTGC’s federal antitrust and state law claims, which ACTGC also appealed. Defendant NOAC then moved to dismiss the first appeal as moot. The Fifth Circuit granted NOAC’s motion, dismissed the first appeal, and affirmed the judgment of the district court on all issues in the second appeal. The court agreed with NOAC and found that the first amended complaint is a legal nullity because it was not incorporated by the subsequent second amended complaint. Thus, because the first amended complaint is nullified, the court cannot consider—and thus must dismiss—an appeal of a denial of injunctive relief stemming from the complaint. Further, the court explained that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying ACTGC leave to amend its complaint to add affidavits that do not add additional evidence of irreparable harm and do not address the pleading deficiencies of its federal law claims. Moreover, the court held that ACTGC has not pleaded a legally sufficient product market under either of its proffered definitions. If the relevant product market is cemetery tours, it has not identified or included reasonably interchangeable substitutes. And if the product market is cemetery tours of Nos. 1 and 2, such a market is unduly narrow. View "New Orleans Assoc v. New Orleans Arch" on Justia Law
Vazquez-Ramos v. Triple-S Salud, Inc.
The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' federal antitrust claims concerning a standard exclusive dealing arrangement between Triple-S Salud, Inc. and Dr. Rodriguez-Blazquez and companies owned by him (Urologics) incident to the maintenance of closed healthcare networks, holding that the complaint, in part, stated a plausible claim to relief.Plaintiffs, who were under contract with Triple-S to provide urology services to urology patients in the area, asserting that the exclusive dealing arrangements in this case caused them to lose business and made it more difficult for patients to obtain urology services in Western Puerto Rico. The district court dismissed the claims. The First Circuit (1) reversed the district court's order dismissing Plaintiffs' federal antitrust claims concerning the exclusive dealing arrangement between Triple-S and Urologics, holding that Plaintiffs adequately stated a claim to relief that was plausible on its face; and (2) affirmed the district court's order dismissing Plaintiffs' federal antitrust claims concerning a different arrangement, holding that the district court properly dismissed these claims. View "Vazquez-Ramos v. Triple-S Salud, Inc." on Justia Law
KJERSTI FLAA, ET AL V. HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS ASSOC., ET AL
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is a California non-profit mutual benefit corporation whose members are involved in reporting for media outlets outside of the United States. The members are offered advantages such as access to Hollywood talent granted by movie studios. The HFPA strictly limits the admission of new members The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an antitrust action brought by two entertainment journalists who challenged the membership policies of HFPA. The panel affirmed the dismissal of the journalists’ antitrust claims. The journalists alleged that the HFPA’s exclusionary membership practices violated section 1 (restraint of trade) and section 2 (monopolization) of the Sherman Act, as well as California’s Cartwright Act. The panel held that the journalists also failed to state a claim that the HFPA’s practices were unlawful under a rule of reason analysis. The panel held that the journalists did not state a claim of per se liability based on a horizontal market division agreement because this theory was inconsistent with statements in the complaint that the HFPA’s members do not participate in the same product market. The panel held that, under a rule of reason analysis, the journalists failed to allege that the HFPA had market power in any reasonably defined market. The panel also affirmed the dismissal of the journalists’ claim based on California’s right of fair procedure, which protects, in certain situations, against arbitrary decisions by private organizations. View "KJERSTI FLAA, ET AL V. HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS ASSOC., ET AL" on Justia Law