Washington, D.C., Business Litigation Attorney Manages Antitrust Claims
Skilled business lawyer represents injured consumers and workers throughout the D.C. area
Antitrust law is meant to promote fair competition and protect consumers, workers and businesses from unfair competition. The Sherman Antitrust Act empowers the U.S. government and private citizens to take action against people and companies that unlawfully restrict competition. Penalties for companies that engage in unfair competition can be severe, including large damage payments and forced divestment of certain holdings. The Law Offices of John Lopatto has vast experience managing antitrust cases for businesses, consumers and workers who have suffered due to anticompetitive practices. I understand the evidentiary standards necessary to prove an antitrust case and am meticulous about building the strongest case possible. Many antitrust cases settle before trial, and through principled negotiation, I am often able to resolve conflicts without the delay and expense of litigation. However, when trial is necessary, I work tirelessly to protect your rights.
Proving an antitrust case in Washington, D.C.
Any company doing business in the United States must abide by our antitrust laws. Plaintiff consumers, workers and businesses may assert a claim if they can prove that:
- Two or more entities contracted or conspired together; or
- Two or more entities unreasonably restrained trade which affects the United States; and
- The plaintiff suffered an injury because of the decreased competition.
Antitrust cases rely on evidence of collusion and damage suffered in the relevant antitrust market. Proof often depends on an in-depth analysis of transactional data and market concentration. Collusion might be found in cooperation among ostensible competitors, such as:
- Price fixing — The practice of manipulating the costs of goods or services to benefit particular individuals and/or to disadvantage others is illegal.
- Allocation or division of markets — Agreements between competitors to divide sales territories or assign customers are illegal.
- Refusals to deal (i.e. boycotts) — If a refusal to engage in commerce with a company allows a monopolist to maintain a monopoly in one area or gain monopoly power in another, that refusal violates antitrust law.
Restraint can also come in vertical channels, as dominant companies attempt to freeze out emerging competitors. Unlawful conduct may include:
- Vertical price fixing or resale price maintenance — This violation may occur when a manufacturer tells a distributor the minimum price at which it may resell goods. In some states, vertical price fixing is per se illegal. Other states apply a totality of circumstances approach to determining if an instance of vertical price fixing is illegal.
- Exclusive dealing — This arrangement, requiring a retailer to only sell one manufacturer’s products, is legal provided it does not serve an anticompetitive purpose.
- Tying — Requiring that customers buy a package of products rather than individual components may be illegal if it has an anticompetitive effect.
- Territorial restrictions — Limitations on how and where a retailer may sell a product may be legal if it is a unilateral decision of the manufacturer, but could be illegal if it is the result of collusion with competitors.
In addition to consumers and businesses, workers can also be harmed when major companies in a particular industry conspire to suppress wages. Such collusion was discovered among tech giants in Silicon Valley who agreed not to recruit each other’s employees in a scheme to limit employee compensation. The result was a huge settlement for affected workers.
Defenses to antitrust claims in Washington, D.C.
Companies accused of anticompetitive behavior have two basic defenses: there was no collusion, and the alleged victims were not harmed. Many company practices that were at one time illegal per se are now subjected to a “rule of reason” examination. That means the court must consider the totality of the circumstances to determine if a particular practice is anticompetitive. This puts the burden on the plaintiff who cannot present dispositive evidence to at least prove that the big picture indicates an antitrust violation. Damages must be more than speculative, so the plaintiff must show unjust enrichment by the defendant or economic harm for the victims.
Given the burden on plaintiffs during discovery to build their case, and the potentially devastating penalties for defendants, many antitrust cases settle before they are decided at trial. At the Law Offices of John Lopatto, I strive to build a strong case on your behalf, and resolve the conflict on the best terms possible. If justice requires going to trial, I have the skill and resources to be successful.
Contact a dependable D.C. business litigation attorney
The Law Offices of John Lopatto provides quality litigation services for plaintiffs in antitrust disputes. My cost-effective litigation services benefit clients throughout the D.C. area. To schedule a consultation, call the Law Offices of John Lopatto at 202-899-5873 or contact my office online.