Commonwealth of Kentucky ex rel. Beshear v. Marathon Petroleum Co. LP, No. 3:15-cv-00354 (May 12, 2015)
State filed suit against Marathon, alleging Marathon engaged in anti-competitive practices that lead to higher gas prices for Kentucky consumers in violation of state and federal antitrust laws. State alleged that Marathon abused its monopoly position after its merger with Ashland Oil in 1998. The state alleged, among other actions, that Marathon requires some retailers, thought its supply agreements, to purchase 100 percent of their RFG from Marathon, with penalties if the retailers fail to do so. The agreements also prohibit unbranded retailers from challenging Marathon’s pricing. According to the complaint, Marathon further reduces competition by adding deed restrictions to some of the property parcels it sells that prohibit the purchaser of the property from selling gas or operating a convenience store. Some of the restrictions have an exception that will allow for development of a gas station if the station sells only Marathon gas. State sought injunctive relief, civil penalties of $2000 per violation, restitution to citizens and to the state and attorneys’ fees. Defendants moved to disqualify the outside counsel retained by the state on the grounds that the contingent fee arrangement was improper. The court denied Marathon’s motion to dismiss as to the federal antitrust, state antitrust and deceptive practices claims, but denied the state’s unjust enrichment claim because consumers only conferred an indirect benefit on Marathon by buying gasoline at allegedly inflated prices, not a direct benefit.
The District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil Oil Corporation and its gasoline distributors for Washington, D.C., to stop enforcement of exclusive‐supply agreements that make one group of affiliated distributors the only suppliers of Exxon‐branded gasoline in D.C. The complaint, filed in D.C. Superior Court, alleges that the exclusive‐supply agreements violate the District’s Retail Service Station Act. The affiliated distributors – Capitol Petroleum Group, LLC, Anacostia Realty, LLC, and Springfield Petroleum Realty, LLC – are the exclusive gasoline suppliers for about 60% of the 107 gasoline stations in D.C., including all 31 Exxon stations, 19 of 20 Shell stations, all 12 Valero stations, and 3 unbranded stations. The District’s lawsuit challenges agreements that make these affiliated distributors the exclusive suppliers of Exxon‐branded gasoline for the 27 independently‐operated Exxon stations in D.C., or about 25% of the gasoline stations in the city. The exclusive‐supply agreements, or earlier versions of them, were established by ExxonMobil and were transferred in 2009 to the affiliated distributors, along with ExxonMobil’s ownership of the 30 D.C. Exxon stations to which the agreements then pertained. According to the District’s complaint, these supply agreements can now be enforced either by the affiliated distributors or by ExxonMobil through its separate agreements with other area distributors.
The District alleges that the exclusive‐supply agreements allow the affiliated distributors to “set the wholesale prices paid for Exxon‐branded gasoline in D.C., depriving D.C. residents . . . of the benefits of competition in the wholesale supply of Exxon‐branded gasoline.”