Industry: Oil and Gas
Eighth Circuit Applies Continuing Violation Doctrine to Extend Statute of Limitations for Sherman Act Claims
Recently in In re Pre-Filled Propane Tank Antitrust Litigation, an en banc panel of the Eighth Circuit clarified the application of the continuing violation exception to the statute of limitations for claims under the Sherman Act. The Court was closely divided, with a 5-to-4 split between the majority opinion and a sharply worded dissent. The majority held that, in an antitrust conspiracy suit, a continuing violation tolls the statute of limitations as long as there were unlawful acts (e.g., sales to the plaintiff) within the limitations period, even if the alleged conspiracy was hatched outside the four-year statute of limitations period. The dissent, however, argued that to avoid dismissal plaintiffs are required to show a live, ongoing conspiracy within the limitations period.
In perhaps an unsurprising move, last week the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit challenging the merger of Halliburton and Baker Hughes, the first and third largest oilfield services companies in the United States and the world. The DOJ alleges the transaction would threaten to “eliminate competition, raise prices and reduce innovation in the oilfield services industry.”
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.
The Federal Trade Commission has reached a proposed consent agreement with two major propane distributors, Ferrellgas, L.P. (d/b/a Blue Rhino) and AmeriGas Partners, L.P., that would settle an FTC price-fixing investigation into the two companies. The proposed deal was announced by the FTC in an order withdrawing the matter from adjudication so that the proposed agreement could be reviewed.