With the close of the United States Supreme Court’s 2017-18 term, we offer this wrap-up, focusing on decisions of special interest from the business and commercial perspective (excluding patent cases): In a much talked-about decision in the antitrust field, the Court held in Ohio v. American Express Co. that American Express’s anti-steering provisions in its merchant contracts, which generally preclude merchants from encouraging customers to use credit cards other than American Express, are not anticompetitive and therefore do not violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In so holding, the Court found that credit card networks are two-sided transaction platforms, one side being the merchant and the other side being the merchant’s customer. Thus, when assessing whether the anti-steering agreements are anticompetitive, the effects on both sides of the platform must be considered. The plaintiffs’ proof that American Express had increased its merchant fees over a period of time was insufficient to show an anticompetitive effect because it neglected the customer side of the platform, where consumers have received the benefit of ever-increasing rewards from credit card companies and other improvements in services that those higher merchant fees enable. Bringing an end to a fight that New Jersey had been waging...
Author: Kevin R. Reich
No Harm to Competition: Third Circuit Upholds Decision for Uber in Antitrust Challenge by Philadelphia Taxicab Drivers
The Third Circuit’s newly-issued precedential opinion in Philadelphia Taxi Association v. Uber Technologies, Inc. is a classic reminder that the antitrust laws protect against harm to competition – not harm to competitors. In 2016, a group of Philadelphia taxicab drivers sued Uber in federal district court, alleging that the ride-sharing service was unlawfully attempting to monopolize the vehicle-for-hire market in Philadelphia. Plaintiffs pointed to the fact that, in October 2014, just prior to Uber’s entry into Philadelphia, there were 7,000 taxi drivers, and each of the city’s 1,610 taxicab medallions was valued at an average of $545,000. Two years later, 1,200 medallion taxi drivers had fled to Uber, those still driving taxis saw a thirty percent decline in their earnings, and the value of a medallion plummeted to just $80,000. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the plaintiffs had not pled antitrust injury – i.e., harm that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent – and thus did not have antitrust standing to maintain their suit. This appeal followed. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal but, unlike the district court, did so first based on plaintiffs’ failure to plausibly allege the elements of their attempted monopolization claim – i.e.,...
Wide of the Goal: Second Circuit Says No to Soccer League’s Request for Preliminary Injunction in Antitrust Suit
Coming, coincidentally, just days before the start of the 2018 Major League Soccer season, the recent Second Circuit decision in North American Soccer League, LLC v. United States Soccer Federation, Inc. has key takeaways for antitrust and injunction law practitioners. As the governing body for soccer in the U.S. and Canada, the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) promulgates Standards, tied to the number and location of a league’s teams, that it uses to designate leagues as Division I, II, or III each year. Major League Soccer (MLS) has been the only D-I men’s soccer league since it began play in 1995, while the North American Soccer League (NASL), despite aspirations to compete directly against MLS, has operated since 2011 as a D-II league. Last year, U.S. Soccer rejected NASL’s application for a D-II designation for the 2018 season. Rather than filing instead for D-III status, NASL sued U.S. Soccer in federal court in Brooklyn, alleging that U.S. Soccer violates Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by selectively applying its Standards to restrain competition among top-tier U.S. men’s professional soccer leagues. As part of its lawsuit, NASL sought a preliminary injunction requiring U.S. Soccer to grant it D-II status for...
In the increasingly crowded field of pay-for-delay litigation, the FTC blazed a new trail last week when – for the first time – it sued a branded drug maker for agreeing not to launch its own “authorized generic” in competition with a generic competitor. The so-called “no-AG commitment” was part of a deal struck by Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. in exchange for a promise by Impax Laboratories to postpone by 2½ years its release of a lower-cost generic version of Endo’s lucrative Opana ER painkiller. That deal, according to the Complaint filed on March 30 in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, let Endo prolong its alleged monopoly and, with it, the supracompetitive profits it earned from Opana. Meanwhile, the lower prices that come with the entry of a generic were delayed.
Recent DGCL Sections Facilitate Ratification, Validation of Defective Corporate Acts; Minimal Reported Court Activity To Date But More Expected
It’s been more than a year since the Delaware General Corporation Law added sections 204 and 205, allowing boards of directors to ratify, or the Court of Chancery to validate, defective corporate acts, including the issuance of stock that did not fully comply with corporate formalities. The Delaware General Assembly’s unanimous adoption of sections 204 and 205 elevated substance over form by giving effect to corporate action that at all times was treated as validly authorized, even if the action was technically deficient.
Opinion Holds That Non-Monetary Reverse Payments Trigger Actavis Antitrust Scrutiny, Creating Split Within D.N.J.
An opinion issued on October 6, 2014, by Judge Sheridan of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey further muddied the legal waters as to what type of “reverse payments” made by makers of brand-name pharmaceuticals to their generic competitors to settle patent litigation are subject to antitrust scrutiny under the Supreme Court’s decision in FTC v. Actavis. Judge Sheridan held that Actavis applies to non-monetary payments, such as a promise by the brand-name manufacturer in exchange for which the generic agrees to delay entry. Importantly, however, a non-monetary payment must be capable of being reliably converted to a monetary value so that it can be evaluated against the Actavis factors. Judge Sheridan’s holding runs counter to Judge Walls’s decision earlier this year in In re Lamictal Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation, which limited Actavis to reverse payments involving an exchange of cash and was the subject of a prior blog post.
Delaware Enacts Legislation Authorizing 20-Year Statute of Limitations for Certain Breach of Contract Actions
Delaware has recently enacted legislation authorizing parties to a written contract involving at least $100,000 to agree to a statute of limitations of up to 20 years for actions based on that contract. The amendment to 10 Del. C. § 8106, embodied in new subsection (c), gives parties to a written contract the freedom to agree to a limitations period longer than the typical three or four years from accrual of the cause of action, without the need to resort to Delaware’s technical requirements for a contract under seal. The synopsis to the legislation explains that examples of the limitations period to be stated in the contract include, without limitation, (i) a specific period of time, (ii) a period of time defined by reference to the occurrence of another event, another document or agreement or another statutory period, and (iii) an indefinite period of time.
A recent opinion from the District of New Jersey illustrates the breadth of defenses available to an entity accused of violating the antitrust laws. World Phone Internet Services, Pvt. Ltd., a provider of VoIP services in India, and its majority shareholder, TI Investment Services, LLC, sued Microsoft (owner of Skype), alleging that Microsoft’s intentional failure to abide by the requirements of India’s licensing regime for VoIP service providers allowed it to undercut World Phone’s pricing, which advantage Microsoft supposedly used to quash its competitors. In granting Microsoft’s motion to dismiss the complaint in TI Investment Services, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., the Court relied on four independent grounds to decide that plaintiffs’ claims of monopolization and collusion did not pass muster under the Sherman Act.
The Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”) removes from the ambit of the Sherman Antitrust Act otherwise actionable anti-competitive conduct abroad that does not have a “direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable” effect on domestic commerce. Questions persist as to what effects qualify as being sufficiently “direct” and also whether the FTAIA is jurisdictional in nature or goes to the substantive merits of a claim. A recent decision out of the Southern District of New York addressed both questions in dismissing an antitrust suit brought by one Chinese corporation against its Chinese competitors.
A New Jersey federal district court’s March 18th opinion granting defendants’ motions to dismiss an antitrust complaint is yet another reminder of the need to inject precision and factual detail into an antitrust claim in order to meet the strict pleading requirements applicable to such claims. The putative class of indirect purchaser plaintiffs in In re Ductile Iron Pipe Fittings (“DIPF”) Indirect Purchaser Antitrust Litigation brought a total of ten claims, alleging principally that iron pipe fitting manufacturers and distributors conspired to fix prices and monopolized the domestic iron pipe fitting market in violation of Sherman Act Sections 1 and 2. In holding that the pleadings failed to establish antitrust impact with sufficient specificity (but granting plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint), the Court reasoned as follows: