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Philadelphia Business Lawyers
Antitrust laws were written to give people and business entities a remedy when they lose money as a result of bullies in the market place with economic power sufficient to force unfair terms upon consumers or competitors. Antitrust lawsuits are typically brought in federal court and invoke the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and the rules promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission. The Sherman Act of 1890 is designed to “protect the consumers by preventing arrangements designed, or which tend, to advance the cost of goods to the consumer.” The Clayton Act of 1914 established a private right of redress for civil relief under the Sherman Act.
Many states today have modeled their own antitrust legislation after the Sherman Act. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not have antitrust legislation, instead relying on federal law.
Remedies and Enforcement
Private suits may be filed by injured consumers or competitors against violators of state and federal antitrust laws. Damages for successful claims include treble damages (meaning that an award amount will be tripled), as well as attorney’s fees and costs.
The federal government, through the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission may bring civil lawsuits to enforce antitrust laws, while the Department of Justice may bring criminal antitrust lawsuits. Often, an antitrust private lawsuit is filed after the government won its case, and in the private litigation, the plaintiff can use the evidence the government collected as well as precedential rulings.
Symptoms of an Anti-Trust case:
The keys to an Anti-trust case are the violators must have economic power which they obtained by some act or design to distort the normal give-and-take of a robustly competitive market. For example, if a company obtained a monopoly (or power that is the equivalent of a monopoly on the one hand, or they and other companies in the field conspire and agreed to work together to split up the pie of business). Here is a hypothetical example of an Anti-trust case:
Assume you own a small manufacturing plant that makes and sells cardboard cartons. If in your geographic area there had been two cardboard suppliers, but the two companies then merged, and now there is only one, that company could have the equivalent of monopoly power. If we add the assumed factor that shipping costs of heavy cardboard would make it uneconomical for you to buy cardboard elsewhere, that supplier’s likelihood of being found to be a monopolist would increase. Finally, if a study by your expert witness found that you were paying a premium price compared to what cardboard was selling for in a competitive market environment, you would have a viable case.
Let us assume in a different hypothetical that there were several sellers of cardboard near your factory, but that all of the suppliers of cardboard agreed to a certain resale price and therefore you could not negotiate to get prices that were more in line with the lower prices charged in markets where the suppliers had not fixed the price. That too would be an Anti-Trust violation, and the grounds for a case.
Sidkoff, Pincus & Green’s approach to Antitrust Litigation
Antitrust cases are fact specific and most rely on definitions of relevant markets that are researched and provided by expert witnesses, usually drawn from the field of economics. Sidkoff, Pincus & Green works with expert witnesses in every branch of forensic economics. We have used experts to help define markets, and to value damages. Our firm also understands that antitrust law is fluid, and we keep our clients informed of recent legal developments so that they can be a full participant in all strategy and litigation decisions.
At the Law Offices of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, our experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey attorneys handle many types of legal matters, including antitrust litigation. If you are interested in having a consultation with one of our Philadelphia Business Lawyers, please call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.