If you ever noticed a coupon dispenser or colorful cardboard display while walking down the aisle of your local supermarket, there is a good chance it was put there by News Corp.’s News America Marketing (NAM) – in-store marketing’s dominant player. News Corp.’s dominance, however, was allegedly the result of anticompetitive conduct, according to its former competitor Valassis Communications, Inc. In a 2017 lawsuit, Valassis alleged that News Corp.’s practice of “staggering” the expiration date of exclusive contracts with retailers violated, among other things, sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and section 3 of the Clayton Act, and resulted in preventing Valassis from establishing itself as a viable competitor. After four years of litigation, the case finally went to trial last month, but the parties settled after the jury indicated it would be unable to reach a verdict. Nevertheless, Valassis’ allegations raise an interesting question: what supporting facts and allegations might suggest staggered exclusive contracts constitute anticompetitive conduct?
Eric Wertheim is an associate in the Litigation Department. Before joining Proskauer, Eric attended Northwestern Pritzker School of Law where he was an associate editor of the Northwestern University Law Review. During law school, he participated in Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions, working with clients seeking post-conviction relief based on claims of actual innocence. Eric also served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Mary Rowland at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.