Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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The plaintiffs are participants in the Allergan Savings and Investment Plan, which provides various investment options, including an employee stock ownership feature for buying Allergan stock. According to the plaintiffs, the defendants were Plan fiduciaries and owed them commensurate duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). They claim that, although the public was unaware, the defendants knew or should have known that, before the divestiture of its generic-drug business, Allergan had conspired with other generic-drug manufacturers to fix prices, thereby artificially boosting its financial performance and its stock price. The plaintiffs cited inquiries from members of Congress and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, seeking information about large price increases in certain generic drugs. The plaintiffs do not allege that Allergan was ever charged in connection with the investigation but claim that the defendants’ failure to remove Allergan stock as a Plan investment option or otherwise take action to protect Plan participants, violated ERISA.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Even viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the well-pled factual allegations fail to support a plausible inference that Allergan conspired with competitors to fix prices. Because all of the plaintiffs’ causes of action ultimately rest on the premise that the defendants knew or should have known about that supposed illegal conduct, the absence of allegations sufficient to support the existence of it is fatal to each of their claims. View "In re: Allergan ERISA Litigation" on Justia Law

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Reckitt developed Suboxone tablets, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. Toward the end of its seven-year period of exclusivity in which other manufacturers could not introduce generic versions, Reckitt developed an under-the-tongue film version of Suboxone, which would enjoy its own exclusivity period. Generic versions of Suboxone tablets would not be rated as equivalent to the name-brand Suboxone film, so state substitution laws would not require pharmacists to substitute generic Suboxone tablets if a patient were prescribed Suboxone film.Purchasers filed suit, alleging that Reckitt’s transition to Suboxone film was coupled with efforts to eliminate the demand for Suboxone tablets and to coerce prescribers to prefer film in order to maintain monopoly power, in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. The Purchasers submitted an expert report indicating that, due to Reckitt’s allegedly-anticompetitive conduct, the proposed class paid more for brand Suboxone products. The district court certified a class of “[a]ll persons or entities . . . who purchased branded Suboxone tablets directly from Reckitt” during a specified period. The Third Circuit affirmed. Common evidence exists to prove the Purchasers’ antitrust theory and the resulting injury. Although allocating the damages among class members may be necessary after judgment, such individual questions do not ordinarily preclude the use of the class action device; the court correctly found that common issues predominate. View "In re: Suboxone Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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In a purported class action, egg purchasers claimed that egg producers conspired to inflate prices by early slaughtering of hens and similar supply-reducing steps; creation of an animal welfare certification program that was actually designed to reduce the egg supply; and coordinated exports of eggs, all as part of a single overarching conspiracy that was anti-competitive per se and unlawful under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. The defendants countered that the court should look at each alleged stratagem of the conspiracy separately and determine whether to apply the per se standard for antitrust liability or the more commonly-applied rule of reason. In summary judgment briefing, the parties focused on the Certification Program, which the court evaluated under the rule of reason. The case proceeded to trial with all three stratagems being evaluated under that standard. Following the jury’s verdict, the court entered judgment for the defendants. The Third Circuit affirmed. Courts can consider the different components of an alleged conspiracy separately when determining which mode of antitrust analysis to apply. The Certification Program was not an express horizontal agreement to reduce the supply of eggs, much less to fix prices and it is not clear that the Program would “have manifestly anticompetitive effects and lack any redeeming virtue.” It was properly analyzed under the rule of reason. View "In re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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GSK’s patent to an anti-epilepsy drug, Lamictal, was to expire in 2009. Teva sought to market a generic version of Lamictal, lamotrigine, before GSK’s patent expired. Teva submitted an Abbreviated New Drug Application. GSK sued for infringement. After Teva received a favorable ruling with respect to one claim in 2005, the parties settled. Teva would begin selling lamotrigine six months before it could have had GSK won but later than if it had succeeded in litigation. GSK promised not to launch an authorized generic (AG) version of Lamictal. Had the parties not settled and had Teva succeeded in litigation, it would have been entitled to a 180-day exclusivity period as the generic first filer but GSK could have launched an AG.Companies that directly purchased Lamictal or lamotrigine (Direct Purchasers) sued, claiming the settlement violated the antitrust laws because GSK “paid” Teva to stay out of the market by promising not to launch an AG, resulting in Direct Purchasers paying more than they would have otherwise.The district court certified a class of all companies that purchased Lamictal from GSK or lamotrigine from Teva. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court certified the class without undertaking the required “rigorous” analysis, failing to resolve key factual disputes, assess competing evidence, and weigh conflicting expert testimony, all of which bear heavily on the predominance requirement, and confused injury with damages. View "In re: Lamictal Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Walgreen sells Remicade, a drug used to treat autoimmune diseases that is marketed and manufactured by Janssen. Walgreen procures Remicade from the Wholesaler, which acquires Remicade pursuant to a Distribution Agreement with JOM, a Janssen affiliate. Only Wholesaler and JOM are identified as parties to the Distribution Agreement. New Jersey law governs the Distribution Agreement, which contains an Anti-Assignment Provision, stating that “neither party may assign, directly or indirectly, this agreement or any of its rights or obligations under this agreement … without the prior written consent of the other party.” In 2018, Wholesaler assigned to Walgreen “all of its rights, title and interest in and to” its claims against Janssen “under the antitrust laws of the United States or of any State arising out of or relating to [Wholesaler]’s purchase of Remicade[.]” Walgreen filed suit against Janssen, asserting various federal antitrust claims relating to Remicade, citing exclusive contracts and anticompetitive bundling agreements with health insurers that suppressed generic competition to Remicade, which allowed Janssen to sell Remicade at supra-competitive prices. If the Anti-Assignment Provision prevented the assignment, then, under Supreme Court precedent, Walgreen, an “indirect” Remicade purchaser, would lack antitrust standing to assert claims against Janssen. The district court granted Janssen summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed. The antitrust claims are a product of federal statute and thus are extrinsic to, and not rights “under,” a commercial agreement. View "Walgreen Co. v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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RDC is a direct purchaser and wholesaler of Remicade, the brand name of infliximab, a “biologic infusion drug” manufactured by J&J and used to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. For many years, Remicade was the only infliximab drug available. That position was threatened when the FDA began approving “biosimilars,” produced by other companies and deemed by the FDA to have no clinically meaningful differences from Remicade. RDC alleged that J&J sought to maintain Remicade’s monopoly by engaging in an anticompetitive “Biosimilar Readiness Plan,” which consisted of imposing biosimilar-exclusion contracts on insurers that either require insurers to deny coverage for biosimilars altogether or impose unreasonable preconditions governing coverage; multi-product bundling of J&J’s Remicade with other J&J drugs, biologics, and medical devices; and exclusionary agreements and bundling arrangements with healthcare providers. RDC’s own contractual relationship with J&J is limited to a 2015 Distribution Agreement, which is not alleged to be part of J&J’s Plan. The Agreement contains an arbitration clause, applicable to any claim “arising out of or relating to the Agreement. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit held that RDC’s antitrust claims do “arise out of or relate to” the Agreement and must be referred to arbitration. View "In re: Remicade (Direct Purchaser) Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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GN and Plantronics manufacture telephone headsets, selling the headsets to customers through distributors. Under the voluntary Plantronics-Only Distributor (POD) program, distributors receive incentives such as favorable credit terms, rebates, and website support in exchange for not purchasing headsets directly from other manufacturers and not marketing competitors’ products on resellers’ websites. GN sent Plantronics a demand letter and filed suit in 2012, alleging that Plantronics’ POD program constituted monopolization.Plantronics issued a litigation hold to relevant employees, provided training sessions to ensure compliance, and sent quarterly reminders requiring acknowledgment of compliance. Plantronics’ Senior Vice President of Sales, Houston, nonetheless instructed employees to delete emails that referenced Plantronics’ competitive practices or its competitors. In 2014, Plantronics’ Associate General Counsel learned of Houston’s conduct, instituted a litigation hold on Houston’s assistant, and requested back-up tapes of Houston’s email account. Plantronics engaged its discovery vendor and a leading forensics expert to try to recover Houston’s emails. Some were recovered. The spoliation, however, continued. Plantronics did not complete its recovery efforts and destroyed the back-up tapes. During depositions, Plantronics executives were evasive. GN moved for a default liability judgment in light of the spoliation.The district court found that Plantronics acted in “bad faith” with an “intent to deprive GN” but denied the motion and issued a permissive adverse inference instruction to the jury, fined Plantronics three million dollars, and ordered it to pay GN’s spoliation-related fees. GN subsequently unsuccessfully sought to present evidence of spoliation. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plantronics. The Third Circuit reversed in part and remanded for a new trial, after upholding the denial of the motion for default judgment. The court committed reversible error when it excluded GN’s expert testimony on the scope of Plantronics’ spoliation. View "GN Netcom Inc. v. Plantronics Inc." on Justia Law

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Spartan, which operated on St. Croix, sought to displace Heavy Materials as the sole provider of ready-mix concrete on St. Thomas. Upon entering the St. Thomas market, Spartan started a price war that caused financial losses to Spartan while Heavy Materials retained its dominant position. After three years of fierce competition, the companies reached a truce: Spartan agreed to sell on St. Croix while Heavy Materials would keep selling on St. Thomas. Spartan then sued Argos, a bulk cement vendor, alleging violations of the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. 13(a), by giving Heavy Materials a 10 percent volume discount during the price war. The district court entered judgment for Argos and denied Spartan leave to amend its complaint to include two tort claims, finding undue delay and prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although Argos gave Heavy Materials alone a 10 percent volume discount on concrete, Spartan presented no evidence linking this discount to its inability to compete in the St. Thomas market. Spartan did compete with Heavy Materials for three years and not only lowered its retail prices, but also began a price war and achieved a nearly 30 percent share of the St. Thomas retail ready-mix concrete market. View "Spartan Concrete Products LLC v. Argos USVI Corp." on Justia Law

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Shire manufactured and marketed the lucrative drug Vancocin, which is used to treat a life-threatening gastrointestinal infection. After Shire learned that manufacturers were considering making generic equivalents to Vancocin, it inundated the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with allegedly meritless filings to delay approval of those generics. The FDA eventually rejected Shire’s filings and approved generic equivalents to Vancocin. The filings resulted in a high cost to consumers. Shire had delayed generic entry for years and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Nearly five years later, after Shire had divested itself of Vancocin, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suit against Shire under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 53(b), seeking a permanent injunction and restitution, and alleging that Shire’s petitioning was an unfair method of competition. The district court dismissed, finding that the FTC’s allegations of long-past petitioning activity failed to satisfy Section 13(b)’s requirement that Shire “is violating” or “is about to violate” the law. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting “the FTC’s invitation to stretch Section 13(b) beyond its clear text.” The FTC admits that Shire is not currently violating the law and did not allege that Shire is about to violate the law. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Shire ViroPharma Inc" on Justia Law

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In March 2015, the Boards of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth formally approved a plan to merge. They had announced the proposal a year earlier; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were already investigating the impact of the proposed merger. This joint probe resulted in the FTC filing an administrative complaint alleging that the merger violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. The FTC scheduled an administrative hearing for May 2016. The Commonwealth and the FTC jointly sued Hershey and Pinnacle under Section 16 of the Clayton Act, and Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 53(b) seeking a preliminary injunction. In September 2016, the Third CIrcuit reversed the district court and directed it to preliminarily enjoin the merger “pending the outcome of the FTC’s administrative adjudication.” Hershey and Pinnacle terminated their Agreement. The Commonwealth then moved for attorneys’ fees and costs, asserting that it “substantially prevailed” under Section 16 of the Clayton Act. The district court denied the motion, finding the Commonwealth had not “substantially prevailed” under Section 16. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that it had ordered the injunction based on Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, not Section 16 of the Clayton Act. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Penn State Hershey Medical Center" on Justia Law