Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Wortman v. All Nippon Airways
Plaintiffs filed a class action against defendants alleging antitrust violations in connection with three categories of defendants' charged rates: unfiled fares, fuel surcharges, and special "discount" fares. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants colluded to fix the prices of certain passenger tickets and fuel surcharges on flights in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's holding that the filed rate doctrine does not preclude plaintiffs' suit. The court explained that the filed rate doctrine is a judicially created rule that prohibits individuals from asserting civil antitrust challenges to an entity’s agency-approved rates. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of fact as to whether the DOT has effectively abdicated the exercise of its authority to regulate unfiled fares. Therefore, the district court did not not err in denying summary judgment to defendants as to those fares based on the filed rate doctrine. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by finding that genuine issues of material fact regarding the DOT's exercise of regulatory authority over fuel surcharges precluded entry of summary judgment for defendants. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in declining to apply the doctrine to discount fares given the questions of fact regarding whether the discount fares constitute the same product as the fares actually filed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial denial of defendants' motions for summary judgment. View "Wortman v. All Nippon Airways" on Justia Law
Pepper v. Apple Inc.
Plaintiffs, purchasers of iPhones and iPhone apps, filed suit against Apple, alleging that Apple has monopolized and attempted to monopolize the market for iPhone apps. The court held that plaintiffs lacked antitrust standing pursuant to Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois. The court agreed with the Third and Tenth Circuits and read Rule 12(g)(2) in light of the general policy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, expressed in Rule 1. The court concluded that any error committed by the district court in ruling on Apple’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for lack of statutory standing under Illinois Brick, was harmless. The court explained that Apple is a distributor of the iPhone apps, selling them directly to purchasers through its App Store. Because Apple is a distributor, plaintiffs have standing under Illinois Brick to sue Apple for allegedly monopolizing and attempting to monopolize the sale of iPhone apps. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pepper v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Aerotec Int’l v. Honeywell Int’l
Aerotec is a small, independent company that provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for Honeywell's auxiliary power units (APUs). Aerotec filed suit alleging causes of action under sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, 2, the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. 13(a), and Arizona state law. Aerotec alleges that Honeywell leverages its monopoly power over the APU parts market to unfairly smother competition in the repair services market. The court concluded that Aerotec’s chain of logic and evidence is too attenuated to support liability for tying under section 1, and none of the indicia that the court would ordinarily review in an exclusive dealing claim are present in the record. The court rejected Aerotec's monopolization claims under section 2, concluding that Aerotec's refusal to deal claim fails based on its vague requested remedy that the court order Honeywell to provide parts, data, and prices like it did before 2007. Furthermore, reasonable access to the essential facility exists and Aerotec cannot establish an essential facilities claim. The court rejected Aerotec's claim that Honeywell engages in unlawful conduct by simultaneously charging a low (but above-cost) price for its repair bundles and raising the wholesale price of replacement parts. Finally, the court rejected Aerotec's claim that Honeywell engages in secondary-line price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Aerotec Int'l v. Honeywell Int'l" on Justia Law
Sony Electronics v. HannStar Display Corp.
After Sony and HannStar engaged a mediator to resolve a price-fixing dispute, the mediator proposed settlement in an email exchange. Both parties accepted by email, but when HannStar refused to comply, Sony filed suit to enforce the agreement. The district court denied Sony’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the California Evidence Code’s mediation privilege bars introduction of the settlement emails. The parties stipulated to a final judgment. The court held that, because at the time the parties engaged in mediation, their negotiations concerned (and the mediated settlement settled) both federal and state law claims, the federal law of privilege applies. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court erred in applying California privilege law to resolve this dispute. The court reversed and remanded. View "Sony Electronics v. HannStar Display Corp." on Justia Law
FTC v. AT&T Mobility
The FTC filed suit against AT&T under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTA), 15 U.S.C. 45(a), taking issue with the adequacy of AT&T’s disclosures regarding its data throttling program. The district court denied AT&T's motion to dismiss and rejected it's view of the common carrier exemption. The court concluded, however, that the common carrier exemption in section 5 of the FTC Act carves out a group of entities based on their status as common carriers. Those entities are not covered by section 5 even as to non-common carrier activities. Because AT&T was a common carrier, it cannot be liable for the violations alleged by the FTC. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "FTC v. AT&T Mobility" on Justia Law
Boardman v. Pacific Seafood Grp.
Plaintiffs, a group of West Coast fishermen, filed suit againt Frank Dulcich, Pacific Seafood, and an Ocean Gold entity, alleging antitrust claims under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-7, and the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. Defendants appealed the district court's decision granting a preliminary injunction to enjoin the acquisition and denying the motion to compel arbitration. The court affirmed the district court's order denying the motion to compel arbitration because plaintiffs' claims are not within the scope of the purported arbitration provision in the Resolution Agreement. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction where plaintiffs have shown a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits because plaintiffs did not release their claims in a prior settlement, plaintiffs have adequately demonstrated that the proposed transaction could substantially lessen competition, plaintiffs are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, the balance of the equities tips in plaintiffs' favor, a preliminary injunction is in the public interest, and the preliminary injunction is not overbroad. View "Boardman v. Pacific Seafood Grp." on Justia Law
FTC V. Commerce Planet, Inc.
The FTC filed suit against Commerce Planet in order to enjoin it's deceptive marketing of a product called “OnlineSupplier.” The FTC alleged that Commerce Planet violated section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 45(a). Commerce Planet and two individual defendants settled. The remaining defendant, Charles Gugliuzza, was enjoined from engaging in similar misconduct and ordered to pay $18.2 million in restitution. In this opinion, the court addressed Gugliuzza's arguments contesting the validity of the restitution award. The court concluded that the district court had the authority to award restitution under section 13(b) of the FTC Act; the court saw no basis for holding that courts are categorically precluded from imposing joint and several liability in actions brought under section 13(b); because joint and several liability is permissible, restitution awards need not be limited to the funds each defendant personally received from the wrongful conduct; and, in this case, the judgment entered against Gugliuzza does not actually hold him jointly and severally liable for Commerce Planet’s restitution obligations. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment. If on remand the district court decides, in the exercise of its discretion, to hold Gugliuzza jointly and severally liable with Commerce Planet, it may reinstate the $18.2 million restitution award. Otherwise, the award must be limited to the unjust gains Gugliuzza himself received. Finally, the court concluded that the district court properly followed the two-step burden-shifting framework for calculating restitution awards under section 13(b) and the district court did not abuse its discretion in calculating the amount of the award in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "FTC V. Commerce Planet, Inc." on Justia Law
Stanislaus Food Products v. USS-POSCO Indus.
Plaintiff, a tomato cannery, filed suit under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, alleging claims that it pays artificially high prices as the result of an illegal market allocation agreement among the nation’s leading tin manufacturers who agreed to cede the tin mill products market in the western United States to UPI. The court concluded that U.S. Steel’s participation in the alleged conspiracy is economically implausible. Further, the court concluded that the evidence does not tend to exclude the possibility that the alleged conspirators were acting independently and therefore, plaintiff has failed to establish specific facts supporting a market allocation conspiracy. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Stanislaus Food Products v. USS-POSCO Indus." on Justia Law