Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
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
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
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
Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al.
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. He claimed that he was injured after purchasing and trading a Euroyen TIBOR futures contract on a U.S.-based commodity exchange because the value of that contract was based on a distorted, artificial 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 fraudulent submissions to an organization based in London that set a benchmark rate related to a foreign currency—occurred almost entirely overseas. Here Plaintiff failed 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. As such, the district court also correctly concluded that Plaintiff lacked antitrust standing because he would not be an efficient enforcer of the antitrust laws. Finally, Plaintiff failed to allege proximate causation for his RICO claims. View "Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al." on Justia Law
Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. v. Lockheed Martin Corporation
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
Chandler v. Phoenix Services
Plaintiffs are oil-field manufacturing and services companies (collectively, “Chandler”) who brought Walker Process fraud and sham patent litigation claims against defendants Phoenix Services, LLC, and its CEO, Mark Fisher (collectively, “Phoenix”). The patent at issue here is U.S. Patent No. 8,171,993 (the “’993 Patent”), which was issued to Mark Hefley, founder of Heat On-The-Fly, LLC (“HOTF”). The district court dismissed some of the claims for lack of standing and others as time-barred. The case was then appealed to the Federal Circuit, but the Federal Circuit found the case had no live patent issues and so transferred the case to the Fifth Circuit.Both parties moved for summary judgment, to support its claims, Chandler alleged Phoenix was liable as HOTF’s parent company for two anticompetitive acts involving the ’993 Patent. Chandler and Phoenix cross-moved for summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit accepted the case and affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court explained that it cannot find the Federal Circuit’s decision implausible. Next, turning to the merits, the court found that the district court correctly found a lack of substantial evidence that the cease-and-desist letter materially caused Supertherm’s lost profits. Finally, because the district court correctly ruled that tolling does not apply, Chandler’s claims are time-barred. View "Chandler v. Phoenix Services" on Justia Law
Sanofi-Aventis U.S. v. Mylan, et al.
Plaintiff Sanofi-Aventis U.S., LLC (“Sanofi”) sued Defendants Mylan, Inc. and Mylan Specialty, LP (collectively “Mylan”) under Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Sanofi, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, alleged Mylan, the distributor of EpiPen, monopolized the epinephrine auto-injector market effectively and illegally foreclosing Auvi-Q, Sanofi’s innovative epinephrine auto-injector, from the market. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The district court, holding no triable issue of exclusionary conduct, granted Mylan’s motion for summary judgment. After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit agreed and affirmed the district court. View "Sanofi-Aventis U.S. v. Mylan, et al." on Justia Law
Marion HealthCare, LLC. v. Southern Illinois Healthcare Services
A southern Illinois outpatient surgery clinic accused the area’s largest hospital system and its largest health insurer (Blue Cross) of violating federal and state antitrust laws by entering into contracts that designate the hospital but not the clinic as a Blue Cross preferred provider (in-network provider). A district judge granted judgment in favor of Blue Cross, reasoning that insurers are customers and cannot be liable for the practices of sellers with market power. The clinic and the hospital agreed that a magistrate judge could handle the rest of the case and enter a final judgment, 28 U.S.C. 636(c). Discovery followed. After reviewing a special master’s report, a magistrate granted the hospital summary judgment on the ground that the clinic had not been injured.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first noting that Blue Cross had not consented to a magistrate having final authority. However, Blue Cross received a district judge's decision and impliedly consented to the magistrate by submitting documentation. Neither federal nor state law prohibits preferred provider agreements; the agreements are not exclusive dealing or tie-in arrangements. The clinic "scarcely tries to show that it has been injured by reduced output or higher prices," nor does it allege that there is any historical link between the hospital’s insurance-contracting practices and either prices or output. View "Marion HealthCare, LLC. v. Southern Illinois Healthcare Services" on Justia Law
Examination Board, et al. v. International Association, et al.
Competing trade associations offered memberships to home inspectors, who typically inspect homes prior to home sales. Benefits of membership in the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) included online advertising to home buyers, educational resources, online training, and free services such as logo design. From 2015 to 2020, ASHI featured the slogan “American Society of Home Inspectors. Educated. Tested. Verified. Certified” on its website. Contending that tagline mislead consumers, InterNACHI sued ASHI under the federal Lanham Act, claiming the line constituted false advertising because it inaccurately portrayed ASHI’s entire membership as being educated, tested, verified, and certified, even though its membership includes so-called “novice” inspectors who had yet to complete training or become certified. InterNACHI argued this misleading advertising and ASHI’s willingness to promote novice inspectors to the public caused InterNACHI to lose potential members and dues revenues. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of ASHI, concluding no reasonable jury could find that InterNACHI was injured by ASHI’s allegedly false commercial advertising. To this, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred: because InterNACHI did not present any evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that InterNACHI was injured by ASHI’s slogan, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for ASHI. View "Examination Board, et al. v. International Association, et al." on Justia Law