Industry: Consumer Products
Last Friday, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a multidistrict class action brought by Netflix subscribers who claimed the company conspired with Walmart to dominate the online DVD sales and rental markets. In 2005, Netflix and Walmart entered into a promotion arrangement whereby Walmart agreed to transfer its DVD-rental subscribers to Netflix in exchange for 10% of the revenue and a $36 payment for each subscriber Netflix gained through referral. Netflix also agreed to promote Walmart’s DVD sales in exchange for the referrals.
Bill Baer, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DOJ Antitrust Division, spoke about the DOJ’s antitrust enforcement priorities last Friday, February 6, at a speech in Miami. AAG Baer emphasized three priorities: exercising patience with market flux due to new disruptive new industry sectors, giving meaningful guidance to the business community, and crafting structural remedies as part of their merger enforcement efforts.
On Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral argument in Apple’s appeal in the e-book price-fixing lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice. This appeal follows an adverse decision from June 2013, in which the district court determined that Apple had conspired with five book publishers to raise prices on e-books in violation of the antitrust laws.
On November 12, 2014, the parties in Motorola Mobility v. AU Optronics reargued their case to a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit – the same panel that ruled on the case earlier this year. The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) also had the opportunity to argue its position in this closely-watched Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”) case.
Motorola Oral Arguments Today – Will the Seventh Circuit Revise Its Interpretation of the FTAIA, and If so, How?
Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral argument from the parties and amicus curiae the United States concerning the reach of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”), 15 U.S.C. § 6a, in Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics. Last March, as we’ve written previously, the court ruled against Motorola in an interlocutory appeal concerning the FTAIA’s application to offshore components manufacturers. The court subsequently withdrew its opinion, denied a petition for en banc review, and ordered oral argument.
The Canada Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that civil antitrust plaintiffs may receive wire-tap evidence obtained in the criminal investigation into an alleged price-fixing scheme by several large gas companies. During the criminal investigation, the Competition Bureau of Canada intercepted and recorded more than 220,000 private communications which it used to bring antitrust proceedings against 54 persons.
Much has happened since our last post on the Nexium “pay for delay” class action lawsuit. Jury selection began in the District of Massachusetts on Monday, October 20, 2014. The day prior, one of the generic drug makers, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (“DRL”), settled with the plaintiffs and agreed to cooperate in plaintiffs’ case against AstraZeneca, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Ranbaxy Inc.
The current debate over whether Amazon holds the power of a monopolist or a monopsonist is likely to be narrowed to one question in a court room: What is the relevant product market that Amazon is allegedly dominating? Since our last post on the Amazon and Hachette dispute, there has been increased discussion in the general press, culminating with 2008 Nobel Prize winner for economics Paul Krugman telling readers of the New York Times that Amazon is a monopsonist.
Our regular readers know that we have been carefully following the developments in Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp., currently pending in the Seventh Circuit. The case addresses the reach of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”), and will join recent decisions issued by the Second Circuit and Ninth Circuit earlier this year.
In Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp. et al., the Seventh Circuit is currently considering the reach of the Sherman Act beyond United States borders and will join the Second and Ninth Circuits in interpreting some key provisions of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”). In that case, which will be heard by the Seventh Circuit on a motion for rehearing, the parties have advanced vastly different interpretations of the FTAIA and the extent to which defendants’ conduct abroad has impacted the United States market, if at all.
Reverse Payments, Actavis, and the Lower Courts at Sea, Part 2: The Brewing Conflict Over Non-Cash Settlements
Our first post in this series was titled “What Is a Reverse Payment?” As the recent cases discussed in today’s post show, the courts are struggling with a fundamental component of that question: What, for that matter, is a payment?
Among the issues left unresolved by the Supreme Court’s Actavis opinion is the question of whether a reverse payment settlement can run afoul of antitrust laws when no actual cash changes hands. Instead, these arrangements might include a promise by the brand name manufacturer to delay the introduction of an authorized generic, a settlement of unrelated litigation on terms beneficial to the generic manufacturer, or a licensing agreement whereby the generic manufacturer gains rights to market the brand name product overseas. These can be of tremendous value to the generic manufacturer, but they are different from the “pay[ment of] many millions of dollars” that was the focus of Justice Breyer’s opinion for the Actavis majority.
In the seminal decision, Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp 472 U.S. 585, 611 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a jury verdict for a plaintiff on a Section 2 claim and set forth the standard for unilateral refusal-to-deal claims. More recent U.S. Supreme Court and Second Circuit cases suggest that Aspen Skiing may reflect the “outer boundary” of liability under Section 2. What are the markers of that boundary?
China’s antitrust regulators have been on a tear lately. Last year the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (“SAIC”) began its investigation of Qualcomm for allegedly violating China’s 2008 Anti-Monopoly Law. SAIC recently released a statement indicating that this investigation is coming to an end, but Qualcomm may be facing a fine of over $1 billion. Then, in July of this year, SAIC raided offices of Microsoft and its partner Accenture PLC throughout China in connection with an investigation into Microsoft’s alleged anti-competitive bundling of software. And during the last month alone, the National Development and Reform Commission (“NDRC”) accused Chrysler, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, and a dozen Japanese auto parts makers of various violations of the Anti-Monopoly law in connection with their pricing of auto parts.
We’ve previously written about Motorola Mobility v. AU Optronics, currently pending in the Seventh Circuit. As many of you know, the Seventh Circuit vacated its March 2014 decision that the higher prices for mobile phones Motorola sold in the United States did not “give rise” to antitrust claims and that Motorola could not show a “direct” effect on U.S. commerce sufficient to satisfy the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”). Briefing is currently underway, and the case is scheduled for oral argument on Thursday, November 13.
Many of you will recall that on March 27, 2014, the Seventh Circuit issued a long-awaited decision concerning the scope of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”) in Motorola Mobility v. AU Optronics. The Seventh Circuit held that the higher prices for mobile phones Motorola sold in the United States did not “give rise to” its foreign subsidiaries’ antitrust claims, and that Motorola could not show a “direct” effect on U.S. commerce sufficient to satisfy the FTAIA. Just days after this opinion, Motorola asked for a rehearing. After multiple letters back and forth between the Court, the parties, and the Solicitor General’s Office, on July 1, 2014 the Seventh Circuit vacated its prior opinion. Additional briefing is now underway, and is expected to be completed in October.
Last week we posted a discussion concerning effective antitrust corporate compliance programs, and provided some factors that in-house counsel should consider in developing compliance programs governing employees’ communications with competitors and dealings with customers and suppliers. Today we continue that discussion by addressing the relevant factors in compliance programs concerning monopolization and dominance and price discrimination.
On Friday, August 8, Judge Claudia Wilken of the Northern District of California issued her much-anticipated findings of fact and conclusions of law in O’Bannon v. NCAA.
With DOJ’s Antitrust Division and the FTC ramping up antitrust enforcement, it is critical for companies to take a hard look at their compliance programs and update them on a regular basis to avoid potential antitrust violations and discover antitrust malfeasance early on so a company can have the option of self-reporting and applying for leniency under DOJ’s leniency program. The United States Sentencing Guidelines provide guidance to companies in the organization of their corporate antitrust compliance programs; Guidelines considerations include establishing standards and procedures to prevent and detect criminal conduct and monitoring, auditing and periodically evaluating compliance with the program, including providing anonymous or confidential means for reporting potential breaches. In addition to these threshold requirements, it is important that any antitrust compliance program provide guidance in a number of areas that present potential pitfalls. Today, we discuss guidance on communications with competitors and dealing with customers and suppliers.
We're Passing it Along: One Court’s Treatment of the Upstream and Downstream Pass-On in an Indirect Purchaser Case
In summer 2013, Best Buy faced off against Toshiba and HannStar in a price-fixing trial that was part of the multi-district Flat-Panel litigation, TFT-LCD (Flat-Panel) Antitrust Litigation, 07 MD. 01827 (N.D. Cal.). Although there has been a lot of press about Best Buy’s inability to collect its $22 million verdict due to set offs, and the parties’ protracted battle over attorneys’ fees, there has been little to no coverage of the court’s treatment of the passing on of the overcharge under applicable Minnesota law.
Last month, we were excited to publish our article, The Use of Expert Witnesses for Penalty Determinations in Criminal Antitrust Cases: A Study of United States v. AU Optronics, in Antitrust Magazine. The article examines the use of expert testimony during the trial in AU Optronics, No. 09-cr-110 (N.D. Cal), and discusses several strategic issues for practitioners to consider in responding to expert testimony in criminal cartel cases.
As luck would have it, just days after our article was published, the Ninth Circuit issued its long-awaited AU Optronics decision addressing the requirements of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”).
On August 1, 2014, Judge Cote preliminarily approved a $450 million settlement in the Apple e-books litigation. As many of you will recall, a June 2013 trial resulted in a finding that the various plaintiffs (including numerous states, the United States, and a class action) succeeded in proving that Apple had conspired with five book publishers to raise e-book prices.
Amazon and the publisher Hachette are engaged in a fierce dispute over the pricing of e-books sold by Amazon. At issue is how the profits from the sale of e-books should be divided between Amazon and the publisher and who should bear the impact of Amazon’s discounting of e-books.
On June 4, 2014, the Second Circuit issued its decision in Lotes Co., Ltd. v. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., an important ruling on the reach of the U.S. antitrust laws to foreign conduct.
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