When Do You Need an Antitrust Lawyer?
Everyone pays the price (literally) when businesses try to restrain free trade and stifle competition. Competition acts as a ruling agent in the marketplace. Small businesses are often victimized when their larger counterparts work together to influence pricing and restrain competition in the marketplace. When the dynamic of healthy competition is tampered with, smaller business can be forced out of the marketplace, and the incentives for larger businesses to improve prices and quality can decrease.
Antitrust lawyers fight to protect small business owners, and ultimately consumers, against the effects of illegal marketplace manipulation through the enforcement of antitrust laws. Federal laws protect competition by specifically targeting unfair business practices, such as monopolization, price and bid rigging, and market allocation practices.
Law firms focusing in antitrust litigation, also referred to as competition law firms or antitrust law firms, represent the businesses who are being accused of illegal antitrust practices or the businesses who are hurt by stifled competition. If you suspect antitrust foul play in the marketplace, find a competition law group to discuss the harms you believe you and your business have suffered.
Tackling a large corporation may seem too daunting of a task to take on by yourself. But you have rights as a small business owner, and one of those rights is to a marketplace characterized by fair and open competition.
You are not alone. The antitrust lawyers at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin have the drive and determination to help you fight for your rights. We also partner with other attorneys, when needed, to try to protect businesses from price fixing, bid rigging, monopolistic, and market allocation activities.
If you have questions about business practices that you believe violate antitrust laws, contact us today for a free case evaluation. We have the resources, litigation experience, and antitrust knowledge to fight against forces undermining free market competition.
What Is Antitrust and Competition Law?
Antitrust and competition law was developed by the U.S. government to protect companies from predatory business practices and to promote free trade and a healthy competitive marketplace for the benefit of consumers.
Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division enforce these federal antitrust laws. Each agency has developed a level of authority and expertise in specific markets or industries, and before opening an investigation, the two agencies generally consult with one another.
So, if antitrust investigations and lawsuits are handled at the federal level, what do antitrust lawyers who don’t work for the FTC or DOJ do? They try to help small business owners.
Individual business owners can file several types of antitrust lawsuits. In fact, most antitrust suits are brought by businesses and individuals who are seeking damages for violations of the Sherman Act or the Clayton Act. Private parties can also seek court orders to prevent anticompetitive conduct or bring lawsuits under state antitrust laws.
What Antitrust Laws Are There?
There are four core federal antitrust laws that aim to protect fair business practices and keep the marketplace competitive.
- The Federal Trade Commission Act
The Federal Trade Commission Act bans “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” It also created the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the only entity that can bring cases under the FTC Act. This means that individuals and businesses cannot sue under the FTC Act.
- The Sherman Antitrust Act
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describes the Sherman Antitrust Act as outlawing “every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade,” and any “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.” This federal law targets those actions that are unreasonable restraints of trade.
(Note: Many partnerships or agreements may affect trade, but not unreasonably, and are legal.)
The Sherman Act is generally enforced in criminal court, and criminal prosecutions can only be enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ). However, individuals can also seek damages via private lawsuits for violations of the Sherman Act.
- The Clayton Act
The Clayton Act addresses practices that the Sherman Act does not specifically prohibit, such as mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly.” It requires companies planning a merger or acquisition over a certain size to notify the Antitrust Division of the DOJ and the FTC. It also bans certain discriminatory prices, services, and allowances between companies.
The FTC enforces the Clayton Act, but individuals can also bring antitrust lawsuits to seek damages for violations of the Clayton Act.
- The Robinson-Patman Act
The Robinson-Patman Act, or the Anti-Price Discrimination Act, is an amendment to the Clayton Act that prohibits price discrimination, as well as discrimination in promotional payments and services, also called “non-price discrimination.” In general, this act requires that all sellers treat all buyers in a proportionately equal manner, and it tries to protect small businesses from being illegally driven out of the marketplace by large franchises. The Robinson-Patman Act also makes it illegal for anyone “knowingly to induce or receive a discrimination in price.”
The FTC is responsible for upholding the provisions of the Robinson-Patman Act. Litigation is typically brought by individuals and small businesses claiming predatory pricing and discrimination.
An experienced antitrust lawyer can explain how and if these laws apply to your situation. If you would like to obtain a free case evaluation, call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin today at 1-866-900-7078.
What Are Examples of Antitrust Violations?
Most antitrust tactics lessen the pressure on companies to keep prices competitive which can victimize smaller businesses, and ultimately hurt customers. Below are several of the major categories of business behavior that violate federal antitrust laws.
|Price fixing occurs when two or more competitors agree to manipulate a specific price point on goods or services in order to control supply and demand or profit. Here’s a well-known real world example:
In 2014, Bridgestone Corp. plead guilty to price fixing and agreed to pay a $425 million criminal fine for its role in a scheme to fix prices of automotive anti-vibration rubber parts installed in cars. Three years prior, the company had pled guilty to a different price fixing scheme in the marine hose industry and paid a $28 million fine.
Bid rigging is when two or more companies collude together to decide in advance who will submit the winning bid on a contract. The following example includes an element of price fixing, as well as bid rigging:
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) caught competitors General Electric, Westinghouse, and 40+ others red-handed in a bid rigging scheme when it noticed that 47 manufacturers had submitted identical bids for projects for three years. Apparently, the heads of these companies met regularly to determine which company would submit the winning bid and what price each company would bid in order to “raise, fix, and maintain” the prices of insulators, transformers, and other electrical equipment. This conspiracy cost the TVA millions of dollars more than what it would have had to pay had there been no bid rigging.
Monopolies are created when a company has exclusive control of the supply or trade of a good or a service and faces no competition, allowing it to set its own price. Many may remember this historic antitrust trial:
Microsoft was found to be a monopoly in the computer operating system market that hurt competitors and consumers alike when it forced its own web browsers upon computers that had installed the Windows operating system. This bundling allowed Microsoft to charge inflated prices to consumers, and Microsoft’s domination of the market allowed it to muscle out competitors.
Market allocation happens when two competitors scheme together and agree to allocate specific customers, products, or geographic territories among themselves. For example:
The FTC found that FMC Corporation and Asahi Chemical Industry Co. conspired to divide the market for microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) into two territories, and each organization agreed not to sell MCC in the other’s market without their consent. The FTC announced a consent order that prohibited this illegal restraint of trade.
What Does an Antitrust Lawyer Do?
Antitrust law is complicated. Price fixing, collusion, market allocation – these are not concepts that many people deal with daily. But antitrust lawyers do. And they understand how federal statutes apply to businesses and how to identify practices that violate these laws. While each antitrust case is different, the following activities are commonly practiced by antitrust lawyers in these types of cases:
- Legal research
- Deposition taking
- Factual investigation and analysis
- Documentary discovery
- Arguing motions in court
- Advising clients
- Interpreting federal and state laws
- Interviewing witnesses
- Litigating in court when needed
What Should I Look for in an Antitrust Law Firm?
If you want to explore your legal options because you believe a business has illicitly disrupted competition in the marketplace causing you and others financial harm, look for an antitrust law firm with the following characteristics:
- Resources – an abundance of human and financial resources to research and sustain a possibly lengthy fight
- Experience – knowledge, strong antitrust litigation skills, and and a history of standing up to large organizations and “fighting for the little guy”
- Commitment – dedication to justice, stamina, and a focus on trying to maximize compensation for clients
Sometimes, antitrust cases are brought on behalf of multiple claimants in class actions where one or more named claimants represent a group of people who are in the same situation. When looking at antitrust law firms, you want a firm with experience in class actions.
At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we led a team of law firms in one of the largest civil rights class actions in U.S. history, which resulted in a $1.25 billion settlement in In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation.1 We are also fighting for individuals’ rights in the North Carolina State Retirees class action lawsuit and the GenX Contamination class action lawsuit. Our firm cares about effecting positive change for others.
Can I Afford an Antitrust Attorney?
You can afford an antitrust attorney who operates on a contingency fee basis, like we do at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin.2 There are no up-front costs with this type of fee structure, which allows you access to legal counsel without having to pay significant hourly expenses. Instead, the attorney’s fee is a designated percentage of any award received at the conclusion of the case.
At our firm, we offer the contingency fee option, and we will also consider hourly fees, set fees, or a hybrid of these fee structures.
What Compensation Can I Expect in an Antitrust Case?
Because each antitrust case is unique, the possible compensation associated with each case is different. Under the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act, people who suffer antitrust injury may recover treble damages, which are three times their damages.
In many antitrust cases, attorneys retain experts to identify and calculate possible damages using established economic techniques. They work to quantify the amount of harm the unlawful antitrust practices caused. Antitrust law and antitrust damages are complex. If you believe you have been victimized by the competition-stifling practices of another, call our firm at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.
How Do I Find an Antitrust Attorney Who Will Fight For Me?
Look no further. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have a dedicated complex litigation team who handles these types of cases – led by award-winning trial attorneys Coleman Cowan and Gary Jackson*.
Our firm utilizes advanced case management software that helps our antitrust team keep track of the enormous amount of paperwork and scheduling involved in antitrust cases so that no filing deadline or critical detail gets overlooked. One of our team members actually created the software to meet the need for streamlined case management in the Black Farmers’ class action case.
We also partner with other firms as needed to preserve free market competition and protect small businesses from price fixing, bid rigging, monopolistic behavior, and market allocation activities.
We have the resources, the tools, and the experience, and we are ready to fight for you every step of the way. Tell them you mean business.
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