Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
United States v. AT&T, Inc.
In an action filed by the government to enjoin the vertical merger between AT&T and Time Warner under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the government's request for a permanent injunction. At issue on appeal was the district court's findings on its increased leverage theory whereby costs for Turner Broadcasting System's content would increase after the merger, principally through threats of long-term "blackouts" during affiliate negotiations. The court held that the government failed to clear the first hurdle in meeting its burden of showing that the proposed merger was likely to increase Turner Broadcasting's bargaining leverage. Furthermore, the government's objections that the district court misunderstood and misapplied economic principles and clearly erred in rejecting the quantitative model were unpersuasive. In this case, the government offered no comparable analysis of data for prior vertical mergers in the industry that showed "no statistically significant effect on content prices" as defendants had. Additionally, the government's expert opinion and modeling predicting such increases failed to take into account Turner Broadcasting System's post-litigation irrevocable offers of no-blackout arbitration agreements, which a government expert acknowledged would require a new model. The court also held that the evidence indicated that the industry had become dynamic in recent years with the emergence of distributors of only on-demand content, such as Netflix and Hulu. View "United States v. AT&T, Inc." on Justia Law
Daugherty v. Sheer
The DC Circuit held that two Federal Trade Commission attorneys were immune from suit for their conduct during an enforcement action against a medical-records company after the company's CEO publicly criticized the FTC about their investigation, where the company's data-security practices made patient records available over public file-sharing. The court held that qualified immunity protected all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law and, even if the attorneys sought to retaliate for the public criticism, their actions did not violate any clearly established right absent plausible allegations that their motive was the but-for cause of the Commission's enforcement action. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to the attorneys. View "Daugherty v. Sheer" on Justia Law
Soundboard Association v. FTC
SBA filed suit seeking to enjoin rescission of an informal opinion letter issued by the FTC (the 2016 Letter). The 2016 Letter stated that it was the FTC staff's opinion that telemarketing technology used by SBA's members was subject to the FTC's regulation of so-called "robocalls," and it announced the rescission of a 2009 FTC staff letter that had reached the opposite conclusion. The DC Circuit dismissed the complaint for failure to state claim and held that because the 2016 staff opinion letter did not constitute the consummation of the Commission's decisionmaking process by its own terms and under the FTC's regulations, it was not final agency action. Finally, SBA's speech claims were pleaded as Administrative Procedure claims under 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(B) and could not proceed without final agency action. View "Soundboard Association v. FTC" on Justia Law
United States v. Anthem
The court affirmed the issuance of a permanent injunction enjoining the merger of Anthem and Cigna under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in enjoining the merger based on Anthem's failure to show the kind of extraordinary efficiencies necessary to offset the conceded anticompetitive effect of the merger in the fourteen Anthem states: the loss of Cigna, an innovative competitor in a highly concentrated market. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in enjoining the merger based on its separate and independent determination that the merger would have a substantial anticompetitive effect in the Richmond, Virginia large group employer market. View "United States v. Anthem" on Justia Law
Osborn v. Visa Inc.
Plaintiffs, users and operators of independent (non-bank) ATMs, filed related actions against Visa, MasterCard, and certain affiliated banks, alleging anticompetitive schemes for pricing ATM access fees. Plaintiffs alleged anticompetitive harm because Visa and MasterCard prevent an independent operator from charging less, and potentially earning more, when an ATM transaction is processed through a network unaffiliated with Visa and MasterCard. The court held that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiffs had failed to plead adequate facts to establish standing or the existence of a horizontal conspiracy to restrain trade under the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to amend the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Osborn v. Visa Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Antitrust & Trade Regulation
Pharmaceutical Research v. FTC
The Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (Act), 15 U.S.C. 18a, added section 7A to the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, 15 U.S.C. 12 et seq., to establish notification and waiting requirements for large acquisitions and mergers. The principal purpose of the Act is to facilitate Government identification of mergers and acquisitions likely to violate federal antitrust laws before the proposed deals are consummated. In 2013, the FTC modified its reportable asset acquisition regulations to clarify that, even if patent holders retain limited manufacturing rights or co-rights, transfers of patent rights within the pharmaceutical industry constitute reportable asset acquisitions if all commercially significant rights are transferred. PhRMA filed suit challenging the FTC's Rule and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the FTC. The court concluded that the Rule does not violate the plain terms of the Act; the court owes deference to the FTC because the contested rule embodies a permissible construction of the Act; and the Commission's action also survives review under the arbitrary and capricious standard. Because the FTC's action is supported by reasoned decisionmaking and PhRMA's claims are without merit, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Pharmaceutical Research v. FTC" on Justia Law
FTC v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm.
The FTC initiated an enforcement proceeding against Boehringer after the pharmaceutical company failed to comply with an administrative subpoena seeking various documents related to a settlement agreement between the company and Barr, a generic drug manufacturer. Boeringer subsequently certified compliance with the subpoena but withheld hundreds of responsive documents under the work product doctrine and the attorney-client privilege. Te court rejected the FTC's assertion that the district court erred as a matter of law when it concluded that settlement documents pertaining to a co-promotion agreement between Boehringer and Barr were prepared in anticipation of litigation. The court held that a settlement term may have independent economic value and still be considered part of a settlement for purposes of work product protection. The court also found that the district court reasonably concluded that the bulk of the contested co-promotion materials were prepared in anticipation of the Boehringer-Barr litigation, with a single exception pertaining to post-settlement documents. Therefore, the court generally affirmed the district court's finding on this issue but remanded for further consideration with respect to post-settlement documents. The court agreed with the FTC that the district court misapprehended the proper distinction between fact and opinion work product and reversed and remanded on this issue. View "FTC v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm." on Justia Law
POM Wonderful LLC v. FTC
After the FTC voted to hold POM and the associated parties liable for violating the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act), 15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1) and 52(a), and ordered them to cease and desist from making misleading and inadequately supported claims about the health benefits of POM products, POM petitioned for review. The court denied most of petitioners' challenges; the court saw no basis to set aside the Commission's conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims about POM products; and the Commission had no obligation to adhere to notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures. Further, the court held that the Commission's order is valid to the extent it requires disease claims to be substantiated by at least one randomized and controlled human clinical trial (RCT); the order fails Central Hudson scrutiny because it categorically requires two RCTs for all disease-related claims; the Commission has failed to adequately justify an across-the-board two-RCT requirement for all disease claims by petitioners; and, therefore, Part I of the Commission's order will be modified to require petitioners to possess at least one RCT. The court denied the petition for review in all other respects. View "POM Wonderful LLC v. FTC" on Justia Law
In re: Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litig.
Plaintiffs, a group of shippers who paid rate-based fuel surcharges, filed an antitrust action alleging that freight railroads engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy. On interlocutory appeal, the freight railroads seek to undo class certification because separate trials were needed to distinguish the shippers the alleged conspiracy injured from those it did not. The court vacated the district court's class certification decision and remanded the case to permit the district court to reconsider its decision in light of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, which clarified the law of class actions after the district court had certified the class. View "In re: Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litig." on Justia Law
Spirit Airlines, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Transp.
Pursuant to its authority to regulate "unfair and deceptive" practices in the airline industry, the Department of Transportation issued a final rule entitled "Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections." Spirit Airlines and others challenged three of the rule's provisions. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the petitions for review, holding (1) the requirement that the most prominent figure displayed on print advertisements and websites be the total price, inclusive of taxes, was not arbitrary and capricious or a violation of the First Amendment; (2) the requirement that airlines allow consumers who purchase their tickets more than a week in advance the option of canceling their reservations without penalty for twenty-four hours following purchase was not arbitrary and capricious; and (3) the prohibition against increasing the price of air transportation and baggage fees after consumers purchase their tickets was not procedurally unlawful or otherwise arbitrary and capricious. View "Spirit Airlines, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Transp. " on Justia Law