Review of Antitrust Violation Laws and Defenses
Antitrust laws primarily exist to regulate competition among businesses. In other words, these laws are an attempt to keep competition in the United States fair and to prevent a monopoly.
This is not to suggest competition is bad as it normally keeps one company from monopolizing other businesses.
However, a company is prohibited from completely taking over the market by using harmful means to dominate other companies and gain the upper hand.
Antitrust violations are “violations of laws designed to protect trade and commerce from abusive practices such as price-fixing, restraints, price discrimination, and monopolization.”
This is a broad umbrella category of white collar crimes. Complicating the matter further is the number of antitrust policies in place.
In addition to federal laws governing these situations, California has unique policies related to unfair competition and price discrimination. The nature of antitrust violations can thus be very complex.
Antitrust laws work to prohibit restraints on free, open commercial competition. If an individual or a business act in a way that restrains open trade, these laws allow the state or federal government to take action.
Importantly, California and federal antitrust laws also contain language that helps anyone who has been the victim of an antitrust offense recover adequate compensation for damages done.
Common Types of Antitrust Violations in California
Examples of matter used in antitrust claims might include:
- unfair business practices;
- prevention of fair competition;
- monopoly leveraging;
- predatory pricing (when entities offer similar goods to different buyers, charging different prices to each);
- bid rigging;
- tying (when an entity only agrees to sell a product or commodity if the buyer agrees to purchase another ‘tied' product or commodity);
- market, territorial, and customer allocation;
- horizontal or vertical price fixing (when competitors agree to buy or sell their commodities at a fixed rate);
- group boycotts (when competitors agree to boycott another);
- monopolization (or attempted monopolization);
- specific types of mergers and acquisitions;
- certain types of non-compete contracts;
- refusals to deal;
- exclusive dealings;
- secret rebates and discounts;
- deceptive or false advertising;
- discrimination between merchants.
There is clearly a very wide span of actions that could lend themselves to suspicions or allegations of antitrust violations.
If you find yourself standing accused of antitrust violations, you need to work with a lawyer who understands the complex nature of antitrust laws to pursue your most successful outcome.
Definition of Unfair Competition
Antitrust violations tend to devolve on one definition: The concept of creating unfair competition. There are normally three categories of definitions for “unfair competition.” These are:
- unfair competition is the result of unfair, fraudulent, or unlawful business practices;
- unfair competition results from deceptive, unfair, misleading, or false advertising;
- unfair competition can result from any other violation of the relevant sections of California's Business and Professions Code.
As you can see, this can be a broad definition, which is why you must discuss the case with a criminal defense lawyer who understands the nuance and subjectivity of many related charges.
Federal and State Legislation Relating to Antitrust Violations
There are many federal and state laws that govern antitrust violations. These include the:
- Cartwright Act;
- Unfair Practices Act;
- Unfair Competition Act;
- Federal Trade Commission Act;
- Sherman Act which includes legislature regarding trade restraints and monopolization (15 U.S.C. §§ 1-7) ;
- Clayton Act which governs tying, exclusive dealing, and certain types of acquisitions and mergers (15 U.S.C. § 12-27);
- Robinson-Patman Act which governs price discrimination).
Also, because antitrust violations occur across many industries, antitrust law can intersect with many other types of legislation.
Dealing with antitrust violations, intertwined as they often are with intellectual property law, patent settlements, licensing agreements, and other types of litigation will require a deft hand and targeted expertise.
Penalties for violating an antitrust law
If you receive a charge and a conviction for violating an antitrust law, you may face severe repercussions. These consequences may include:
- recovery of all damages and attorney fees;
- fines ranging from $250,000 for individuals to $1M for businesses;
- prison sentences for individuals of up to three years.
Common Defenses for Violating Antitrust Law
If you face charges for an antitrust violation in California, it is crucial that you work with experienced legal professionals to build you a strong case.
While the specific defense that you use will depend on the particulars of your situation, the following are examples of common antitrust defenses.
- lack of standing to sue;
- statute of limitations;
- defenses catered to the underlying allegations;
- defenses that center on the definition of fraudulent or unfair;
- constitutional defenses.
At Eisner Gorin, LLP, we offer considerable expertise and experience for defendants who need assistance with a strong defense.
It might be possible to negotiate and persuade the prosecutor from filing formal charges through prefiling intervention.
Further, we may be able to get the charges reduced or even dismissed.
We represent people in Southern California and throughout the United States.
If you or any of your loved ones stand accused of antitrust violations, we'll help you assess your situation with a free immediate response.
We need to first review all the details of the allegations in order to develop a defense strategy.
Call our law firm at (310) 328-3776, or you can contact our firm online.