Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed a judgment entered in district court following a jury trial, convicting him of conspiracy to restrain trade in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred by failing to consider his proffered evidence that the illegal trading activity lacked anticompetitive effects and had procompetitive benefits and by refusing to conduct a pre-trial assessment as to whether the per se rule or the rule of reason applies. He further contended that the district court abused its discretion in precluding his competitive effects evidence from admission at trial and in conducting only a limited post-trial inquiry into juror misconduct.   The Second Circuit affirmed the ruling, concluding that the district court was not required to make a threshold pre-trial determination as to whether the per se rule or the rule of reason applies to the alleged misconduct in this case. The court reasoned that the grand jury indicted Defendant for a per se antitrust violation and the government was entitled to present its case to the jury. The district court properly assessed the sufficiency of the evidence of the alleged per se violation and the sufficiency decision upholding the verdict is not challenged on appeal. In addition, the district court acted within its broad discretion in strictly limiting the admission of Defendant’s competitive effects evidence at trial. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in ending its post-trial investigation into alleged juror misconduct. View "United States v. Aiyer" on Justia Law

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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In 2011 and 2012, the government brought enforcement actions against more than 80 facilities alleged to be selling and distributing marijuana for medicinal purposes in violation of the Los Angeles Municipal Code for public nuisance, the Narcotics Abatement Law, Health & Safety Code section 11570, and the state unfair competition law, Business & Professions Code section 17200. The complaints sought permanent injunctions, abatement of the nuisances and civil penalties. The trial court denied the government’s omnibus motion for summary judgment, reasoning that claims for penalties made under each of the statutory plans are elements of the causes of action alleged. The court of appeal vacated, holding that the penalties being sought are among the remedies available rather than elements of the causes of action alleged in the several complaints. View "People v. Cahuenga's The Spot" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a company that sold aviation fuel at a Puerto Rico airport. Plaintiff filed this action Defendants, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA), Airport Aviation Services (AAS), and employees of those entities, claiming that Defendants wrongfully interfered with its business. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that a corrupt relationship existed between AAS and PRPA and that Defendants took improper actions in order to drive Plaintiff out of business. Before trial, the district court dismissed the claims against some defendants and, after a bench trial, granted judgment for the remaining defendants. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not indicate a sufficiently clear intent to appeal the judgments dismissing the PRPA defendants from the case; and (2) the district court did not err in finding no conspiracy on the part of AAS and its employees to restrain trade, and the court correctly concluded that Plaintiff failed to proffer evidence to prove Defendants' actions were unreasonable or anticompetitive. View "Diaz Aviation Corp. v. Airport Aviation Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (together, Kaiser), Aetna, Inc. and Guardian Life Insurance Company (Guardian) filed a coordinated complaint against Pfizer, Inc. and Warner-Lambert Company (together, Pfizer). The coordinated plaintiffs asserted violations of, inter alia, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Ultimately, Kaiser prevailed, and Aetna and Guardian's claims were dismissed on summary judgment. After a jury trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of Kaiser on its RICO and state UCL claims. The court subsequently denied Pfizer's motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, to alter or amend judgment. The court awarded Kaiser damages and ordered Defendants to pay restitution. Finding no error, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the verdicts for Kaiser. View "Kaiser Found. Health Plan v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

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David Rasmussen filed a class-action complaint against several automobile companies, including Nissan Japan and its wholly owned subsidiary, Nissan North America. The complaint alleged that the automobile company defendants violated Wisconsin's antitrust and conspiracy laws. The circuit court dismissed Nissan Japan from the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court of appeals affirmed the order of dismissal. At issue was whether Wisconsin's long-arm statute granting personal jurisdiction over individuals engaged in substantial and not isolated activities within Wisconsin subjected Nissan Japan to personal jurisdiction in Wisconsin. On review, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statutory prerequisites for general personal jurisdiction were not met because (1) the activities of the subsidiary corporation, Nissan North America, were insufficient to subject its nonresident parent corporation, Nissan Japan, to general personal jurisdiction, and (2) Rasmussen did not meet his burden to show that the corporate separateness of Nissan Japan and Nissan North America should be disregarded such that the activities of Nissan North America in Wisconsin should be imputed to Nissan Japan.View "Rasmussen v. General Motors Corp." on Justia Law