What Do Antitrust Lawyers Do?
Antitrust law seeks to prevent monopolies and encourage competition. Insider agreements and collusions between companies that stifle innovation, competition, and free trade are generally illegal.
If you or your business suffered financial harm due to other businesses conspiring to lessen competition, you could have a case. Morgan & Morgan’s antitrust lawyers do not shy away from standing up to powerful corporations abusing their power to gain an advantage.
If you wonder what antitrust lawyers do and how they could help you get justice, get in touch with us today. Contact us for a free case review to find out if you could take legal action and recover damages.
Common Antitrust Law Violations
Most antitrust violations are committed by companies seeking to hinder free competition. Some of the most common cases of antitrust violations involve:
Price-fixing is generally used to describe an agreement between businesses, manufacturers, retailers, or wholesalers, to fix or raise prices. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), price-fixing agreements can be written, verbal, or inferred.
Consumers usually benefit when there is healthy competition between companies. When competitors fix prices, agreeing to charge the same or a similar price for a product or service, they engage in unfair competition. Price-fixing also typically results in higher prices for consumers. Price-fixing does not only concern the actual price of a product or service and can also include agreements regarding:
- Shipping and handling fees
- Terms of warranties
- Financing rates
- Discounts and sales
- Production amounts or capacities
Why Is Price-Fixing Illegal?
Price-fixing leads to overcharging customers, reduces incentives for innovation, and can create monopolies. According to antitrust laws, companies should generally establish prices and other terms independently from each other, based on supply and demand. While not all types of price-fixing are illegal, a plain agreement between competing companies to fix prices is generally unlawful.
Bid-rigging describes illegal coordination among bidders for business contracts. Bid-rigging typically arises when companies agree on who will be the winner of a specific contract beforehand. This practice destroys the fair and competitive bidding process. Bid-rigging can take many different forms, such as:
- Agreeing in advance which company will win the bid
- Intentionally submitting high bids
- Companies agreeing not to bid
- Businesses agreeing to take turns in being the lowest bidder
- Subcontracting to a company that lost the bid
- Submitting a single bid as a joint venture
Bid-rigging can occur when bids are invited for construction projects, government procurement contracts, and in other circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, most forms of bid-rigging schemes revolve around an agreement that predetermines the winning bidder and suppresses competition between the colluding businesses.
Monopolization refers to the unlawful effort by a business in a leading market position to control the market and restrain competition. Antitrust laws seek to prevent companies from establishing monopolies.
Having a leading market position in itself is not enough to have a monopolization case against a company. A harmed individual or business would also have to prove that the monopoly was established through unlawful conduct.
Market Division or Customer Allocation
Unlawful market division and customer allocation involve agreements between companies to divide their territories or customer base. These types of agreements are designed to eliminate competition. Our antitrust lawyers can represent your business if you suffered financial disadvantage due to others engaging in market division or customer allocation.
An illegal group boycott can arise when two or more entities collude to restrict one or several competitors from competing. Group boycotts tend to occur when a new and potentially innovative competitor is seeking to get established in a certain market. Current competitors can engage in group boycott activity to try and prevent the new company from getting established. It is important to note that group boycott activity must be commercially motivated to be subject to antitrust liability.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions can be regular and lawful occurrences in the business world. However, when a merger or an acquisition creates a monopoly or drastically reduces competition, it is generally unlawful. Mergers can result in lower-quality services or goods, less innovation, and, importantly, lead to much higher prices for consumers. Antitrust law, specifically 15 U.S. Code § 18 (Section 7 of the Clayton Act), prohibits mergers and acquisitions that create monopolies or minimize competition.
What Is the Federal Government’s Role in Upholding Antitrust Law?
The federal government is responsible for enforcing antitrust laws. Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) enforce antitrust laws by investigating and bringing lawsuits against individuals or businesses.
The two organizations also generally review mergers and acquisitions to ensure they do not create a monopoly or lessen competition. In particularly serious or willful antitrust violations, the DOJ can potentially bring criminal cases against individuals or businesses.
Where Can I Report Antitrust Violations?
You can report an antitrust violation to the Bureau of Competition or the Citizen Complaint Center.
When reporting violations, you will be asked to provide some or all of the following information:
- The names of the companies or entities that you believe violated antitrust laws
- A brief summary or examples of the anticompetitive conduct you observed
- Details of the service or product affected
- Describe how the violation affected you as a consumer or competitor
- Described who you believe was harmed by the violation and how
Contact an Antitrust Lawyer
You can also report an antitrust violation to an antitrust lawyer. If you or your business suffered financial harm due to an antitrust violation, consider consulting with one of our experienced antitrust lawyers to determine whether you have a case and could recover damages.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable in an Antitrust Lawsuit?
Violations of antitrust law and limiting competition can be exceptionally financially damaging to individuals, corporations, and consumers. In order to deter companies from committing antitrust violations, damages awarded in lawsuits can be considerable and include triple compensation.
According to 15. U.S. Code § 15 (Section 4 of the Cayton Act), a plaintiff who wins their antitrust case could recover three times the amount of their compensatory damages. Plaintiffs could also recover expenses and legal costs, including any attorney’s fees.
Can an Individual File Antitrust Lawsuits?
Just as businesses can be harmed by anticompetitive conduct, individuals can also suffer financial damages. According to the FTC, the majority of antitrust lawsuits are brought by individuals or businesses.
While individuals can potentially bring an antitrust lawsuit on their own, class-action lawsuits are another common form of consumer antitrust litigation. For example, if a group of consumers was forced to pay inappropriately high prices due to antitrust law violations of a business or several businesses, they could bring an antitrust lawsuit as a class.
What Are My Next Best Steps for Filing an Antitrust Lawsuit?
Antitrust cases tend to deal with complex legal issues. If you believe that you could qualify for an antitrust lawsuit, your best next step can be to get in touch with an antitrust lawyer from our firm. In a free consultation, our legal team can advise you on whether you have a case. We will also be able to determine whether it makes sense for you to file individually or join a class-action lawsuit.
What is the Sherman Act?
The Sherman Act of 1890 was introduced to prohibit activities that reduce competition, such as price-fixing, limiting industrial output, and monopolization. In the early 20th century, the Sherman Act was slightly modified by the Supreme Court to include that acts restricting trade must involve “unreasonable” conduct to be unlawful.
Penalties for Antitrust Violations
Although most antitrust litigation takes place in civil courts, the Sherman Act includes criminal law. Businesses and individuals that are violating the Sherman Act risk incurring severe penalties as well as criminal prosecution by the DOJ.
The financial repercussions for companies and individuals who commit antitrust violations can be serious. Businesses could face criminal penalties of up to $100 million. An individual could be punished by a penalty of up to $1 million together with a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
How Long Do Antitrust Lawsuits Take?
Since all antitrust lawsuits are unique, it can be next to impossible to determine the length of a lawsuit in advance. In complex cases, when a lengthy investigation may be necessary, antitrust lawsuits could potentially last a year or more. The length of a case can also depend on whether a suit is resolved in or out of court. Some long-standing antitrust court battles can draw out over several years, while others are resolved in just a few short months.
How Can an Antitrust Lawyer Help Me?
If you or your business suffered damages due to other companies engaging in anticompetitive and unlawful conduct, an antitrust lawyer could help you get justice and fight for fair compensation.
What Do Antitrust Lawyers Do for Their Clients?
Antitrust lawyers can represent individuals and businesses in a variety of antitrust violation cases, including but not limited to:
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Group Boycotts
- Market Division
Our antitrust lawyers understand and navigate complex competition issues and provide clients with sound legal guidance. They frequently have to work across industries and quickly get a grasp on the products and services in question.
Moreover, the antitrust attorneys at Morgan & Morgan know the applicable state and federal antitrust and trade regulation laws. When it comes to handling your case, an attorney can work together with expert witnesses and economics experts to build a comprehensive case against one or several defendants.
Morgan & Morgan Can Help
The dedicated antitrust attorneys at Morgan & Morgan have represented businesses and individual clients in a variety of antitrust cases, including market allocation, illegal cartel formation, price-fixing, bid-rigging, and others. Our antitrust lawyers can assist:
- Small businesses
- Solo entrepreneurs
- Large corporations
Morgan & Morgan’s antitrust lawyers do focus on results and can work tirelessly to fight for full and fair compensation for clients, whether by negotiation, through arbitration, or at trial.
If you suffered financial losses due to illegal anticompetition practices, as a business owner or individual, Morgan & Morgan wants to help you get justice. Contact us now to schedule a free and confidential consultation.