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Government Amicus Efforts Show Antitrust Policy Via Advocacy

Under the administration of President Donald Trump, the US Department of Justice's Antitrust Division has significantly ramped up its private litigation amicus program. The Antitrust Division has filed an increasing number of amicus briefs and statements of interest at the appellate and district court levels in an effort to influence the development of antitrust law. In this articles, featured in Law 360, our authors explore how analysis of this advocacy may give us the shape of antitrust policy. Access Full Article

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The Latest: New DOJ Antitrust Division Policy Makes Compliance Programs More Critical than Ever

What Happened: Last week, the Antitrust Division reported that it has changed its Justice Manual to state that it will consider antitrust compliance at the charging stage in criminal antitrust investigations, instead of waiting for plea negotiation or the sentencing stage. Previously, the Antitrust Division had granted leniency only to the first whistleblower to come completely clean. Under the Antitrust Division’s policy reversal, this is no longer the only way to gain credit with the Antitrust Division, and the Antitrust Division will now consider if the Company has “robust” compliance programs when determining whether to bring charges. With the announcement this past Thursday, the Antitrust Division published a guidance document that focuses on evaluating compliance programs in criminal antitrust investigations. This is the first time the Antitrust Division has published guidance on evaluating compliance programs in the context of criminal antitrust...

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DOJ Prosecution of Heir Location Service Providers Dismissed on Statute of Limitations Grounds

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division’s criminal case against an heir location service provider collapsed when the US District Court for the District of Utah ruled that the government’s Sherman Act § 1 case was barred by the statute of limitations. The court held that the alleged conspiracy ceased when the alleged conspirators terminated their market division guidelines, and that continued receipt of proceeds tied to the alleged conspiracy did not extend the limitations period. The court further rejected DOJ’s argument that the case should be subject to the per se standard, instead finding the alleged anti-competitive agreement amongst competitors to be unique and subject to the rule of reason. This ruling opens a crack in the line of Sherman Act per se cases, creating an opportunity for defendants to argue for rule of reason treatment where there are novel factual issues. Continue Reading

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THE LATEST: Limiting Early Discovery in Parallel Criminal and Civil Cases

Companies are increasingly facing parallel proceedings involving government investigations and follow-on private litigation. These complex cases often involve competing interests between the parties that can influence a judge’s determination on discovery timing and process. Private plaintiffs are incentivized to obtain as much information about the case as early as possible to support their allegations and avoid having the case dismissed on summary judgment. Defendants hope to delay, or save altogether, the expenditure of potentially millions in discovery costs. The government has a strong interest in preserving the confidentiality and integrity of their investigation without interference from civil plaintiffs. WHAT HAPPENED: Federal judge recommends six months for discovery stays. At the American Bar Association 65th Annual Spring Meeting (ABA Spring Meeting), Judge Susan Illston of the US District Court of the Northern District of California, who presided...

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DOJ Policy Updates Signal Continuity of Antitrust Program

This month, the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division revised its “Frequently Asked Questions About the Antitrust Division’s Leniency Program and Model Leniency Letters” (FAQs), with releases both before and after the new administration took office. The revisions serve as a signal that the continuity we have seen in previous years from the Antitrust Division is likely to continue. The changes include long-needed clarifications and updates since the release of the FAQs in 2008. Read the full article.

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Criminal Charges for Executive Stemming from Discovery Responses in DOJ Civil Antitrust Litigation

On October 14, 2016, former vice president and director of information technology of Coach USA, Inc. (Coach), Ralph Groen, entered a guilty plea for concealing and attempting to destroy documents and giving false and misleading statements under oath in a deposition during the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s (DOJ) investigation of a joint-venture involving Coach. The DOJ’s complaint alleged that despite two preservation notices issued by Coach to its management team, which included Groen, Groen directed subordinates to destroy month-end backup tapes of emails and electronic records. Due to the destruction, the records were not produced to the United States during discovery. The government argued that these materials were relevant and responsive to the DOJ’s discovery requests. Additionally, Groen then falsely informed the company’s outside counsel that these materials did not exist. Groen also concealed versions of backup procedure documents that...

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Antitrust Enforcement under a Clinton Administration: Status Quo or Significant Change?

On Monday, October 3, 2016, Hillary Clinton issued a statement on her website titled “Hillary Clinton’s Vision for an Economy Where our Businesses, our Workers, and Our Consumers Grow and Prosper Together.” Prior to this statement, there had been some speculation over what a Clinton presidency might bring in terms of antitrust enforcement. Unlike President Barack Obama, former Secretary Clinton had not issued a clear policy statement on her antitrust position before Monday. She had, however, penned one short op-ed piece for Quartz, and had made some general statements on the campaign trail regarding the problems of industry consolidation. It was unclear from these prior statements whether a Clinton administration would mean any change in the current state of affairs at Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The current administration has challenged a higher percentage of mergers than any administration since...

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Baer to Serve as Acting Associate Attorney General

On Monday, April 11, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed in a press release that Bill Baer will serve in the DOJ’s third-highest ranking position effective April 17, 2016. Baer will be stepping in for Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery. Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised Baer’s record at the Antitrust Division, noting that he has worked to obtain $400 million in relief for consumers in a case against Apple for the price-fixing of e-books, achieved a record level of fines from large banks in the LIBOR scandal, and defended consumers in industries from beer and wine to airlines and phone companies. Baer was nominated by President Obama and was confirmed to lead the Antitrust Division in December 2012. It has been widely reported that Renata Hesse, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal and Civil Operations, will take the reins upon Baer’s departure.  Hesse previously served as Acting Assistant Attorney General for a short...

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