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Third Circuit: “Rigorous Analysis” Required for Class Certification in Antitrust Cases

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently concluded in In re Lamictal Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation that a district court’s reliance on average prices to determine class-wide impact was insufficient. Instead, courts must conduct a rigorous analysis of the facts, evidence and expert testimony at the class certification stage of litigation. Access Full Article

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2019 in Review: Overview of Cartel Investigations

The Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) was active in 2019. At the beginning of 2019, the DOJ was preparing for trial in six matters and had 91 pending grand jury investigations. Throughout 2019, the DOJ made public several new investigations, including in the commercial flooring industry, online auctions for surplus government equipment, the insulation installation industry and suspension assemblies used in hard disk drives. The DOJ also announced developments in other ongoing investigations. Meanwhile, the European Commission (Commission) entered into settlements with parties in three cartel cases: Occupant Safety Equipment, FOREX and Canned Vegetables. The Commission imposed total fines of €1,469 million in 2019. In March 2019, the Commission launched an online tool to submit documents and information in the context of leniency and settlement proceedings. Read the full report.

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Close Scrutiny for Class Settlements Where Plaintiff Attorneys Take Lion’s Share

Two recent US antitrust class action settlements drew additional scrutiny from federal judges, showing that the allocation of settlement funds between a proposed class and their attorneys will be carefully reviewed for fairness to class members. WHAT HAPPENED: On January 17, 2020, Judge Janis L. Sammartino denied a motion for preliminary approval of a settlement between Chicken of the Sea and a proposed class of caterers, restaurants and commercial food preparers from 27 states and DC regarding allegations of price-fixing for canned tuna. The proposal would allocate about 77% of the total settlement to attorney fees, costs and expenses, and leave the proposed class with $1.5 million or less of the total $6.5 million settlement amount. The judge indicated concern that the agreement may not have been negotiated at arm’s length, that the filings lacked a claim administration plan and that “class members will collectively receive approximately 6.85% of the...

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California Attorney General Announces Historic $575 Million Settlement of Antitrust Suit Against Sutter Health

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (AG Becerra) announced on Friday, December 20, 2019, the terms of a comprehensive settlement agreement reached with Sutter Health (Sutter), the largest hospital system in Northern California. WHAT HAPPENED? Procedural History In March 2018, the California Attorney General’s office brought a civil antitrust action under California state law against Sutter alleging violations of California’s Cartwright Act. Sutter owns and operates 24 hospitals and 35 outpatient centers and partners with physician organizations with 5,500 members and 12,000 other physicians in northern California, among other operations. The complaint alleged that costs in northern California have rapidly increased, and are higher than in other parts of the state, in large part due to Sutter’s contractual practices with commercial health plans. The complaint alleged, specifically, that Sutter: Used its market power in certain local markets across all...

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Obtaining Class Certification in the United States

Developments in antitrust class actions over the past year highlight the critical role that the certification decision plays. In the United States, the denial of class certification “may sound the ‘death knell’ of the litigation on the part of plaintiffs.” To obtain class certification, plaintiffs must satisfy the four requirements in Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy) and at least one of the requirements in Rule 23(b). McDermott’s Nicole L. Castle, David L. Hanselman, Jr. and Steven Vaughn authored the section “United States: Class Action Defense” of Global Competition Review’s America’s Antitrust Review 2020, in which they discuss the requirements of the Rules and offer insight for those seeking class certification. Access the full article. An extract from GCR’s America's Antitrust Review 2020, first published in September 2019. The whole publication is available at...

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THE LATEST: Hollywood Writers Guild and Talent Agencies Entangled in Labor/Antitrust Lawsuits and Countersuits

A Hollywood union’s recent amendments to its union rules has sparked federal antitrust lawsuits by talent agencies. The Writers Guild of America (WGA), a labor union and the exclusive collective bargaining representative for writers in the entertainment industry, recently instituted new rules that prohibit its members from dealing with talent agencies that do not adopt the WGA’s new “Code of Conduct.” The WGA’s new Code prohibits its members from dealing with talent agencies that employ “packaging” arrangements, whereby agents forego individual commissions from their clients in lieu of “packaging fees” from production companies for providing pools of talent (writers, actors, directors, etc.). The Code also prohibits WGA’s members from affiliating with “any entity that produces or distributes content.” If WGA members continue to deal with talent agencies that have not adopted the Code, the members face sanctions, up to and including expulsion from the union....

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Antitrust Litigation Update for Health Care Providers

2018 saw a significant upswing in antitrust litigation against health care providers; 27 cases were filed in 2018 versus 17 in 2017. In the latest Antitrust Update for Health Care Providers, we discuss what caused the notable rise, what kinds of cases were brought over the past two years and how they were decided, and what cases warrant particular attention in 2019. Access the full report.

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Texas Court Declares Licensing Offer Based on End Device Is FRAND, Diverges from California Court in Qualcomm

Standard-essential patent holders and implementers may face uncertainty regarding licensing practices following a May 23 Texas court ruling. In the ruling, a Texas federal judge reached a conclusion different from a recent California court decision—FTC v. Qualcomm—on the question of whether an SEP holder must base its royalty rates on the “smallest salable patent-practicing unit” in order to comply with a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory royalty commitment. Access the full article.

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THE LATEST: DOJ Distinguishes ‘No-Poach’ Agreements

WHAT HAPPENED: The Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in three related cases in the Eastern District of Washington yesterday dealing with alleged “no-poach” (or non-solicitation) agreements between franchisors like Carl’s Jr, Auntie Anne’s and Arby’s and their franchisees. In the statement, the DOJ distinguished between “naked” no-poach agreements between competitors and the kinds of no-poach agreements in the franchise context that are typically vertical restraints between the parent company and the individual franchisee. According to the DOJ, naked no-poach agreements should be analyzed as per se, or presumptively anticompetitive and illegal under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, while most vertical restraints should be analyzed under the rule of reason which requires some balancing of potential harms and benefits. The statement did, however, distinguish two scenarios where franchise agreements could still merit per se In a situation where the...

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Second Circuit Rejects Total Wine Challenge of Connecticut Pricing Laws

Last week, in Connecticut Fine Wine and Spirits LLC v. Seagull, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit from Total Wine & More challenging parts of Connecticut’s Liquor Control Act and related regulations. Though the decision represents a victory for state alcohol regulatory regimes, the Second Circuit’s ruling was decided on the basis of established antitrust law and did not raise or rely on state regulatory authority under the 21st Amendment. Nonetheless, state alcoholic beverages regulators will embrace the court’s ruling. In Connecticut Fine Wine, Total Wine challenged three sets of provisions in Connecticut’s alcohol laws. First, Total Wine challenged “post-and-hold” provisions. Under the post-and-hold provisions, state-licensed wholesalers are required to post a “bottle price” and “case price” each month with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. Those prices are then made...

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