If a request for legal advice goes unanswered, is it really a request for legal advice? According to the U.S. Department of Justice and several state attorneys general (“DOJ Plaintiffs”) in an antitrust action against Google, United States, et. al. v. Google, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the answer to this question should be “no,” at least where the unanswered request for legal advice is part of an internal company practice intended to conceal sensitive, non-privileged documents from discovery.
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?
Before plaintiffs could light the pilot on antitrust claims against two propane tank distributors, a split Eighth Circuit panel cut the gas. In doing so, the majority espoused a narrow view of the applicability of the continuing violations theory in antitrust litigation.
In 2014, following an FTC administrative complaint, class plaintiffs brought suit against defendant distributors Ferrellgas and AmeriGas, alleging that in 2008, facing rising costs of propane, the distributors conspired to reduce the fill level of 20-pound propane tanks from 17 pounds to 15 pounds while maintaining the price. Though a separate group of indirect purchasers settled with Defendants regarding similar claims in 2008, Plaintiffs argued that Defendants’ conspiracy continued, and that Defendants continued to sell the propane tanks at higher prices and at lower fill levels long after the settlements.
Since 2008, cable customers have been suing cable operators across the country claiming operators violate the antitrust laws by forcing customers to lease set-top boxes from the operator to access “premium” cable services. Plaintiffs claim that the operators have “tied” one product (the service) to another product (the box) and…
On August 12, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice proposed changes to the Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property, also known as the IP Licensing Guidelines. Since they were first issued in 1995, the agencies, courts, and businesses have relied on these Guidelines when…
Can Spanish-language media content constitute a proper antitrust product submarket for purposes of a Sherman Act claim? A federal district court in Houston appears to be the first to address the issue and has signaled that, at least at the motion to dismiss stage, the answer may be sí, se puede. With 13.1% of U.S. residents speaking Spanish at home as of 2014, media companies with merger plans or business arrangements relating to Spanish-speaking consumers should pay close attention.
Non-disclosure and confidentiality provisions can be an important aspect of resolving a case through settlement. But when one of the parties is a purported class, and the allegation is an antitrust violation, settlement and secrecy may be like water and oil.
This tension came to a head in Shane Group v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, in which the Sixth Circuit vacated a $30 million settlement between the defendant and a class of Michigan citizens and corporations, settling allegations of health insurance price fixing. The reason: the district court refused to unseal the parties’ substantive filings – including the Amended Complaint, the motion for class certification, and the expert report on which the settlement was based. When a group of class members moved to intervene to unseal parts of the record and adjourn Rule 23 fairness hearings until they could review the settlement, the district court denied their motion to intervene. In the district court’s own view, the settlement was “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” and thus, class members had no further need for information about the case.