Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Ordinance 124968, which permits independent-contractor drivers, represented by an entity denominated an "exclusive driver representative," and driver coordinators to agree on the "nature and amount of payments to be made by, or withheld from, the driver coordinator to or by the drivers." The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the Chamber's federal antitrust claims because the ordinance sanctions price-fixing of ride-referral service fees by private cartels of independent-contractor drivers. The panel held that the State-action immunity doctrine did not exempt the ordinance from preemption by the Sherman Act because the State of Washington had not clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed a state policy authorizing private parties to price-fix the fees that for-hire drivers pay to companies like Uber or Lyft in exchange for ride-referral services. Furthermore, the active-supervision requirement for state-action immunity applied, and was not met. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Chamber's National Labor Relations Act preemption claims. View "U.S. Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Seattle" on Justia Law

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The en banc court affirmed the district court's denial of AT&T Mobility's motion to dismiss an action brought by the FTC alleging that AT&T's data-throttling plan was unfair and deceptive. After determining that the district court had federal question jurisdiction, the en banc court held that the Federal Trade Commission Act's, 15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1), (2), common-carrier exemption was activity-based, and therefore the phrase "common carriers subject to the Acts to regulate commerce" provided immunity from FTC regulation only to the extent that a common carrier was engaging in common carrier services. The en banc court also held that the FCC's order reclassifying mobile data service did not rob the FTC of its jurisdiction or authority over conduct occurring before the order. View "FTC V. AT&T Mobility, LLC" on Justia Law

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ILWU and PMA jointly filed suit against ICTSI under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185, asking it to order ICTSI to comply with recently issued Joint Committee decisions. ICTSI counterclaimed and alleged, among other things, that ILWU and PMA violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, 2, through their agreement to assign the disputed work to ILWU and their actions taken to enforce such agreement. The district court granted partial final judgment and dismissed ICTSI's antitrust counterclaim with prejudice. All other issues remained stayed in the district court pending the resolution of related NLRB proceedings. The Ninth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not err by entering partial final judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b); ICTSI had standing to bring its antitrust counterclaim; the section 301 suit was covered by Noerr-Pennington immunity; and the nonstatutory exemption shields the alleged Joint Activity of ILWU and PMA from antitrust scrutiny and ICTSI's counterclaim was properly dismissed. View "International Longshore & Warehouse Union v. ICTSI Oregon, Inc." on Justia Law

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Professional minor league baseball is exempt from federal antitrust law. In this case, minor league players filed suit alleging that the MLB's hiring and employment policies have violated federal antitrust laws by restraining horizontal competition between and among the MLB franchises and artificially and illegally depressing minor league salaries. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that, in light of Supreme Court precedent, the decisions of this court, and the Curt Flood Act of 1998, minor league baseball falls squarely within the nearly century-old business-of-baseball exemption from federal antitrust laws. View "Miranda v. Selig" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit joined the Fourth and Sixth Circuits in holding that the collateral-order doctrine does not allow an immediate appeal of an order denying a dismissal motion based on state-action immunity. In this case, SolarCity filed a federal antitrust suit against the Power District, alleging that the Power District had attempted to entrench its monopoly by setting prices that disfavored solar power providers. The district court denied Power District's motion to dismiss the complaint based on the state-action immunity doctrine. Accordingly, the panel dismissed the interlocutory appeal based on lack of jurisdiction. View "SolarCity Corp. v. Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action against defendants alleging antitrust violations in connection with three categories of defendants' charged rates: unfiled fares, fuel surcharges, and special "discount" fares. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants colluded to fix the prices of certain passenger tickets and fuel surcharges on flights in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's holding that the filed rate doctrine does not preclude plaintiffs' suit. The court explained that the filed rate doctrine is a judicially created rule that prohibits individuals from asserting civil antitrust challenges to an entity’s agency-approved rates. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of fact as to whether the DOT has effectively abdicated the exercise of its authority to regulate unfiled fares. Therefore, the district court did not not err in denying summary judgment to defendants as to those fares based on the filed rate doctrine. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by finding that genuine issues of material fact regarding the DOT's exercise of regulatory authority over fuel surcharges precluded entry of summary judgment for defendants. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in declining to apply the doctrine to discount fares given the questions of fact regarding whether the discount fares constitute the same product as the fares actually filed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial denial of defendants' motions for summary judgment. View "Wortman v. All Nippon Airways" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, purchasers of iPhones and iPhone apps, filed suit against Apple, alleging that Apple has monopolized and attempted to monopolize the market for iPhone apps. The court held that plaintiffs lacked antitrust standing pursuant to Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois. The court agreed with the Third and Tenth Circuits and read Rule 12(g)(2) in light of the general policy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, expressed in Rule 1. The court concluded that any error committed by the district court in ruling on Apple’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for lack of statutory standing under Illinois Brick, was harmless. The court explained that Apple is a distributor of the iPhone apps, selling them directly to purchasers through its App Store. Because Apple is a distributor, plaintiffs have standing under Illinois Brick to sue Apple for allegedly monopolizing and attempting to monopolize the sale of iPhone apps. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pepper v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

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Aerotec is a small, independent company that provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for Honeywell's auxiliary power units (APUs). Aerotec filed suit alleging causes of action under sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, 2, the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. 13(a), and Arizona state law. Aerotec alleges that Honeywell leverages its monopoly power over the APU parts market to unfairly smother competition in the repair services market. The court concluded that Aerotec’s chain of logic and evidence is too attenuated to support liability for tying under section 1, and none of the indicia that the court would ordinarily review in an exclusive dealing claim are present in the record. The court rejected Aerotec's monopolization claims under section 2, concluding that Aerotec's refusal to deal claim fails based on its vague requested remedy that the court order Honeywell to provide parts, data, and prices like it did before 2007. Furthermore, reasonable access to the essential facility exists and Aerotec cannot establish an essential facilities claim. The court rejected Aerotec's claim that Honeywell engages in unlawful conduct by simultaneously charging a low (but above-cost) price for its repair bundles and raising the wholesale price of replacement parts. Finally, the court rejected Aerotec's claim that Honeywell engages in secondary-line price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Aerotec Int'l v. Honeywell Int'l" on Justia Law

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After Sony and HannStar engaged a mediator to resolve a price-fixing dispute, the mediator proposed settlement in an email exchange. Both parties accepted by email, but when HannStar refused to comply, Sony filed suit to enforce the agreement. The district court denied Sony’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the California Evidence Code’s mediation privilege bars introduction of the settlement emails. The parties stipulated to a final judgment. The court held that, because at the time the parties engaged in mediation, their negotiations concerned (and the mediated settlement settled) both federal and state law claims, the federal law of privilege applies. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court erred in applying California privilege law to resolve this dispute. The court reversed and remanded. View "Sony Electronics v. HannStar Display Corp." on Justia Law

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The FTC filed suit against AT&T under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTA), 15 U.S.C. 45(a), taking issue with the adequacy of AT&T’s disclosures regarding its data throttling program. The district court denied AT&T's motion to dismiss and rejected it's view of the common carrier exemption. The court concluded, however, that the common carrier exemption in section 5 of the FTC Act carves out a group of entities based on their status as common carriers. Those entities are not covered by section 5 even as to non-common carrier activities. Because AT&T was a common carrier, it cannot be liable for the violations alleged by the FTC. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "FTC v. AT&T Mobility" on Justia Law