Plaintiff state alleged that the town of Southbury in October 2011 decided to put its snow removal contract out to bid, rather than offering it to the defendants without competition. According to the complaint, the defendants colluded and jointly refused to deal with the town and plow for the fast approaching nor’easter unless they were given a guaranteed minimum contract for a larger portion of that winter season. In the face of this threat, and with the impending storm posing a potential threat to public safety, the town agreed. The town later put out a bid for the remainder of its snow removal work for the 2011-to-2012 winter season. According to the complaint, the defendants again colluded and entered into a conspiracy with one another designed to eliminate competition among them and substantially raise the prices they received for snowplowing services from the town. Under the settlement agreement, the three corporate defendants will pay the state $30,000 each in civil penalties. The three companies will also provide the town of Southbury with snow removal services at the original rate prior to the conspiracy for a period of three years that will be applied retroactively beginning with the 2013-2014 winter season. In addition to paying civil penalties and providing reduced-rate services to the town of Southbury, each company will establish an antitrust and competition training program that will be provided to the Office of Attorney General for its review on an annual basis.
TTexas and Connecticut led 33 state group that filed complaint charging three of the nation’s largest book publishers and Apple Inc. with colluding to fix the sales prices of electronic books. The States undertook a two-year investigation into allegations that the defendants conspired to raise e-book prices. Retailers had long sold e-books through a traditional wholesale distribution model, under which retailers, not publishers, set e-book sales prices. The states alleged that Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan conspired with other publishers and Apple to artificially raise prices by imposing a distribution model in which the publishers set the prices for bestsellers at $12.99 and $14.99. When Apple prepared to enter the e-book market, the publishers and Apple agreed to adopt an agency distribution model as a mechanism to allow them to fix prices. To enforce their price-fixing scheme, the publishers and Apple relied on contract terms that forced all e-book outlets to sell their products at the same price. Because the publishers agreed to use the same prices, retail price competition was eliminated. According to the States’ enforcement action, the coordinated agreement to fix prices resulted in e-book customers paying more than $100 million in overcharges. The States’ antitrust action seeks injunctive relief, damages for customers who paid artificially inflated prices for e-books and civil penalties. Case was filed in W.D. Tex., transferred to S.D.N.Y. as consolidated case. The States reached settlements with the five publishers, which granted E-book outlets greater freedom to reduce the prices of their E-book titles. Consumers nationwide received a total of $164 million in compensation. After entering into settlement agreement with all the Defendant publishers, DOJ and the states had a nearly 3 week trial against Apple in June 2013, during which numerous witnesses took the stand. On July 10, 2013, a decision was handed down in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice and the states against Apple. Trial of the damages phase is pending. United States et al. v. Apple, Inc., 12-CV-2826 (S.D.N.Y.).
33 states investigated “pay for delay” allegations relating to DDAVP, a drug used to alleviate bed-wetting. States alleged that Aventis, holder of the patent for the medication, engaged in a scheme to delay the regulatory approval and sale of a generic version of DDAVP, in violation of state and federal antitrust law. States and defendants entered into a settlement under which states received $3.45 million, not as a civil penalty and defendants did not admit guilt.
Starting in 2008, the states investigated the municipal bond derivatives market, where tax exempt entities like governments and nonprofit organizations issue bonds and reinvest the proceeds until the funds are needed or enter into contracts to hedge interest rate risk on bonds. GE Funding is the fifth financial institution to settle with the multistate working group in the ongoing municipal bond derivatives investigation following Bank of America, UBS AG, JP Morgan and Wachovia.
The investigation revealed conspiratorial and fraudulent conduct involving individuals at financial institutions and certain brokers with whom they had working relationships. The states’ investigation developed evidence that certain traders at GE Funding, in concert with certain brokers, engaged in conduct that allowed the broker to determine in advance that GE Funding would win a bid for a guaranteed investment contract. The conduct allowed GE Funding to submit a “last look’’ bid, while the broker arranged for other financial institutions to submit purposely non-winning courtesy bids. Because of the “last look,” on many occasions GE Funding was able to lower its bid to the issuer and still win the transaction.The misconduct led state and local entities, such as municipalities, counties, school districts and other government agencies, as well as nonprofits, to enter into municipal derivatives contracts on less advantageous terms than they would have otherwise.
State reached a settlement with two hotel
owners and a hotel management company to end their practice of “call-arounds.” According to the state, call-arounds allowed competing
hotels in close proximity to exchange sensitive competitor information at least once a day about occupancy and current room rates that may be used to fix rates for hotel rooms. Owners of Holiday Inn Express and Homewood Suites in two Connecticut cities agreed to stop sharing information and to pay $50,000 civil fine.
Starting in 2008, the states investigated the municipal bond derivatives market, where tax exempt entities like governments and nonprofit organizations issue bonds and reinvest the proceeds until the funds are needed or enter into contracts to hedge interest rate risk on bonds.
The investigation revealed conspiratorial and fraudulent conduct involving individuals at JPMC, other financial institutions, and certain brokers with whom they had working relationships. The states alleged that certain JPMC employees and their counterparts at other institutions rigged bids, submitted noncompetitive courtesy bids and fraudulent certificates of arms-length bidding to government agencies. The misconduct led state and local entities, such as municipalities, counties, school districts and other government agencies, as well as nonprofits, to enter into municipal derivatives contracts on less advantageous terms than they would have otherwise. The $66.5 million multistate settlement is one component of a coordinated settlements (totaling $92 million) between JPMC and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), as well as the states.
In 2009, Connecticut sued James E. Galante, former owner of waste disposal companies operating in the Dan bury area, for alleged violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Connecticut Antitrust Act. The lawsuit alleged that in 2002 and 2004, Galante ordered his employees at AWD and Thomas to raise prices by 10 percent for certain commercial customers under the false representation that they were mandatory increases for disposal-site costs. The lawsuit also alleged two incidents of bid-rigging by American Disposal Services of Connecticut, another Galante-owned company, in attempts to secure waste-hauling contracts. Under terms of the settlement, the state received $600,000 to be distributed to an estimated 500 commercial customers of Galante’s former companies: Automated Waste Disposal, Inc. and Thomas Refuse Services Inc.The settlement was timed to the federal government’s sale of these and other companies forfeited by Galante as part of his 2008 guilty plea to federal racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and wire-fraud conspiracy for his role in orchestrating a scheme to drive up trash-removal prices.
Wachovia and its successor, Wells Fargo, settled charges by 25 states and several federal agencies (the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Reserve) that it participated in a nationwide scheme to allegedly rig bids and engage in other anticompetitive conduct relating to municipal bond derivatives that defrauded state agencies, local governmental entities and not-for-profit entities. The multistate settlement is part of a $148 million settlement Bank of America entered into simultaneously with the federal agencies.
U.S. DOJ and plaintiff states filed suit challenging rules made by American Express, MasterCard and Visa that prevent merchants from offering consumers discounts, rewards and information about card costs, ultimately resulting in consumers paying more for their purchases. Visa and MasterCard settled with the Department of Justice and the litigating states immediately after the complaint was filed. Under the terms of the settlement, the two companies will be required to allow merchants to offer discounts, incentives and information to consumers to encourage the use of payment methods that are less costly. The proposed settlement requires MasterCard and Visa to allow their merchants to: 1) offer consumers an immediate discount or rebate or a free or discounted product or service for using a particular credit card network, low-cost card within that network or other form of payment; 2) express a preference for the use of a particular credit card network, low-cost card within that network or other form of payment; 3) promote a particular credit card network, low-cost card within that network or other form of payment through posted information or other communications to consumers; 4) communicate to consumers the cost incurred by the merchant when a consumer uses a particular credit card network, type of card within that network or other form of payment.
American Express did not agree to settle,and a trial was held, in which the court found for the plaintiffs. . The trial focused on credit card “swipe fees” which generate over $50 billion annually for credit card networks. Plaintiffs argued that price competition over merchant swipe fees has been almost non-existent and for decades the credit card networks have not competed on price because of the rules imposed by each of the networks that limit merchants’ ability to take advantage of a basic tool to keep prices competitive. That tool – commonly used elsewhere in the economy – is merchants’ freedom to “steer” transactions to a network willing to lower its price. Each network has long prohibited such steering to lower-cost cards. The court held that the American Express anti-steering rules block merchants from using competition to keep credit card swipe fees down, which means higher costs to merchants’ customers. The decision means that agreements the plaintiffs reached previously with MasterCard and Visa can be fully implemented pending the conclusion of any appeals.
After remedy submissions from the parties, the court entered an order prohibiting American Express from adopting rules or entering contracts that block merchants from encouraging their customers to use a particular credit card. Under the order, merchants must be permitted to: offer discounts for the use of particular cards; express a preference for particular cards; disclose to customers the cost merchants incur when the customer uses particular credit cards; and engage in other conduct to encourage use of favored credit cards. The order also requires American Express to: repeal any rules that block merchant steering; notify merchants of their freedom to engage in steering activities; and adopt compliance measures to ensure that its employees understand that they cannot continue to block steering by merchants that accept American Express cards.
The Second Circuit reversed the lower court decision that the restraints had an actual anticompetitive effect on interbrand competition. The Second Circuit held that plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of demonstrating an anticompetitive effect on the whole market because “without evidence of the NDPs’ net effect on both merchants and cardholders, the District Court could not have properly concluded that the NDPs unreasonably restrain trade in violation of § 1.”
State investigated “call-arounds” by hotels, in which when one hotel employee contacts competing hotels and exchanges with them information concerning their respective current room rates and occupancy rates. Such call-arounds or information exchanges generally happen multiple times daily by phone or internet. this information is not otherwise public. The state alleged that competitors of La Quinta have used call-around information to raise their prices on a regular basis, violating the Connecticut Antitrust Act. Defendants agreed to end the practice in their hotel chain, which operates five hotels in Connecticut. La Quinta’s agreement to end call-arounds covers all La Quinta hotels nationally. The prohibition does not prevent hotels from reviewing commercially available reports and information, communicating with any other hotel or motel on behalf of a specific guest seeking to relocate, or communicating with any other hotel/motel to accommodate guests in the event of a state of emergency, disaster or similar situation.