U.S. Department of Justice

The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division released a joint statement reiterating document preservation obligations for companies and individuals that are the subject of government investigations and litigations, emphasizing messaging platforms, such as Slack and Google Chats, that automatically delete communications. Both agencies announced updated language in their standard preservation letters, specifications for “second requests” used in pre-merger review under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, voluntary access letters, and grand jury subpoenas, to address these instant messaging platforms. The agencies emphasized that companies’ obligation to preserve information on such platforms is nothing new, explaining their clarification is to prevent companies from feigning ignorance if communications are not preserved after preservation obligations are triggered.

Pricing algorithms are nothing new. They are, generally speaking, computer programs intended to help sellers optimize prices in real time, or close to it. These programs can use data on demand, costs, or even competitors’ prices to “learn” to set the prices of products. What is new is the proliferation of these programs across industries and the emergence of artificial intelligence-driven pricing algorithms. 

Back in May, we wrote about a pending motion before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in which the U.S. Department of Justice and several state attorneys general (“DOJ Plaintiffs”) sought to sanction Defendant Google and compel disclosure of all emails withheld for privilege that legal counsel received but never responded to (affectionately referred to as “silent attorney” emails).  The DOJ Plaintiffs claimed the silent attorney emails constituted artificial requests for legal advice intended to conceal sensitive business communications from discovery.  After the parties briefed the issues, the judge ordered that the parties identify cases in support of their positions on whether the judge had the power to issue sanctions for pre-litigation conduct, and further ordered Google to produce a random sample of 210 of the 21,000 “silent attorney” emails for the court’s in camera review.

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.

Over the past year, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has increasingly been hot on the heels of suspected anti-competitive labor violations.  To date, the DOJ has brought a few actions against employers across industries relating to wage-fixing and no-poach agreements.  As these cases take hold, and potentially even head toward trial, this article examines the DOJ’s previous statements and current actions regarding its stance on anti-competitive labor violations.

The Second Circuit has recently held that the Government must account for rental income it denied a property owner during a period of illegal seizure even though the Government was able to establish probable cause at a post-seizure hearing.  The appeal stemmed from a decades-long sanctions and civil forfeiture action in which the U.S. Department of Justice has sought to forfeit, among others, a 36-story skyscraper located at 650 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan co-owned by the Alavi Foundation, an entity accused of laundering money for Iran.