valassis communications

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?