Eleven states and the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to prevent Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets. According to the complaint, Google accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States. Google has entered into a series of…
Plaintiff states alleged that the makers of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, engaged in a scheme to block generic competitors and raise prices. Specifically, they are conspiring to wtich Suboxone from a tablet version to a flim in order to prevent or delay generic entry. The states allege that the manufacturers engaged in “product hopping” in which a company makes slight changes to its product to extend patent protections and prvent generic alternatives. The complaint was filed under seal.
In May 2015, the FTC settled a “pay-for-delay” suit against Cephalon for injunctive relief and $1.2 billion, which was paid into an escrow account. The FTC settlement allowed for those escrow funds to be distributed for settlement of certain related cases and government investigations. In August 2016, forty-eight states filed suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Cephalon alleging anticompetitive conduct by Cephalon to protect the profits it earned from having a patent-protected monopoly on the sale of its landmark drug, Provigil. According to the complaint, Cephalon’s conduct delayed generic versions of Provigil from entering the market for several years. The complaint alleged that as patent and regulatory barriers that prevented generic competition to Provigil neared expiration, Cephalon intentionally defrauded the Patent and Trademark Office to secure an additional patent, which a court subsequently deemed invalid and unenforceable. Before it was declared invalid, Cephalon was able to use the patent to delay generic competition for nearly six additional years by filing patent infringement lawsuits. Cephalon settled those lawsuits by paying competitors to delay sale of their generic versions of Provigil until at least April 2012. Consumers, states, and others paid millions more for Provigil than they would have had generic versions of the drug launched by early 2006, as expected. A settlement was filed with the complaint, which includes $35 million for distribution to consumers who bought Provigil.
Eighteen plaintiff states and the FTC challenged the merger of Dollar Tree, the largest chain of “dollar” stores (deep discount stores) and Family Dollar Stores, the nation’s third largest dollar store chain. The complaint claimed the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition in numerous markets by: (1) eliminating direct and substantial competition between Dollar Tree and Family Dollar; and (2) increasing the likelihood that Dollar Tree will unilaterally exercise market power. This, according to the complaint, would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act and each state’s applicable antitrust and consumer protection laws. The states sought a permanent injunction to prevent the merger, along with costs and attorney fees. The parties reached a settlement under which 330 stores in the 18 states would be divested to Sycamore partners and run as a new dollar store chain, Dollar Express. The agreement also required the defendants to report future acquisitions in any of the affected markets and to pay over $865,000 to reimburse the costs and fees of the plaintiff states.
USDOJ and three states challenged the acquisition of Hilshire by Tyson. According to the complaint, Tyson and Hillshire compete against each other and against others to
procure sows from farmers in the United States. Tyson’s proposed acquisition of Hillshire would eliminate head-to head
competition between the companies and create a firm that would account for over a
third of all sows purchased from farmers in the United States. the merging parties agreed to divest all the assets of Heinold Hog Markets, including 8 buying stations, to a purchaser approved by USDOJ, after consultation with the states.
SCI, the nation’s largest funeral home chain, sought to acquire Stewart Enterprises, another large funeral home chain. Seven states and the FTC entered into consent agreements with SCI specifying which funeral homes would be divested in 59 separate markets. In a separate consent agreement, SCI agreed to provide the state plaintiffs with the same notices, requirements for approval and compliance review as to divestitures and future acquisitions included in the FTC’s consent decree and to pay the state’s costs and attorneys’ fees..
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.
USDOJ and five states challenged the joint venture between Comcast and NBC Universal, alleging that it would harm competition in cable programming, with Comcast controlling NBC and NBCU programming. The parties reached a settlement, and the FCC also reached a separate settlement with Comcast and NBC. The settlements impose a number of restrictions and limitations on the merger to ensure that competing distributors have fair access to NBC and NBCU content. The settlements also address several areas of the joint venture’s operations. The DOJ and states’ settlement particularly focuses on requiring Comcast/NBC to make content available to online video distributors; requires NBC to relinquish all management rights in connection with Hulu.com, a popular video website; and prohibits Comcast from retaliating against content providers who sell to online distributors, entering into exclusive agreements that might limit access to programs, and slowing broadband signals when broadband customers view non-Comcast content.
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.”
Following guilty pleas to criminal price-fixing by several LCD manufacturers, and a conviction after trial of another, plaintiff states filed suit against LCD manufacturers, alleging that top executives of several companies held numerous secret meetings from at least 1999 through at least 2006 for the purpose of exchanging information and setting prices on LCD panels. According to the complaint, companies such as Dell, Apple, and Hewlett Packard were among those targeted by the manufacturers’ price-fixing scheme. According to the lawsuit, the illegal overcharges were ultimately borne by state consumers and state government purchasers. The suit also alleges fraudulent concealment of the conspiracy. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, civil penalties and injunctive relief under the Sherman Act and state antitrust statutes. The first settlement covered Chimei Innolux, Chimei Optoelectronics, Hannstar, Hitachi, Samsung, and Sharp and their subsidiaries. The second settlement, for $543.5 million, was with AU Optronics, Toshiba and LG Display and subsidiaries.