In the United States, businesses are subject to several important federal antitrust laws. The purpose of these laws is to encourage competition, which in turn promotes efficiency that results in keeping quality up and prices down. A violation of federal antitrust law can have severe financial consequences for a business. If your company is under investigation for a violation of federal antitrust law, or you have already been charged with the same, you need an experienced federal antitrust violations defense attorney on your side right away. At Haas Law, we have extensive experience successfully defending clients accused of antitrust violations, and we look forward to putting that experience to work for you.
What Are Federal Antitrust Laws?
Toward the end of the 19th Century, the railroad industry began to consolidate, and manufacturing monopolies started to emerge in the United States. Concern over the impact these growing conglomerates could have on the economy in general, and free-trade in particular, resulted in the passage of the nation’s first antitrust law. The Sherman Act, passed by Congress in 1890, was touted as a “comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.” That original law was soon followed by the Federal Trade Commission Act, which created the FTC, and the Clayton Act in 1914. Those three laws continue to serve as the primary federal antitrust laws in the United States today.
What Is the Sherman Act?
The language of the first of the U.S. antitrust laws, the Sherman Act, prohibits “every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade,” as well as all “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.” Despite the Act’s language, the U.S. Supreme Court decided long ago that only unreasonable restraints on trade are prohibited. For example, an agreement between competitors to fix prices, divide territories, or rig bids would be a clear violation of the Sherman Act. Such clear violations are referred to as “per se” violations. Conversely, while the formation of a partnership by two competitors could result in a restraint on trade, the formation of the partnership alone may not constitute an unreasonable restraint on trade.
Federal law enforcement agencies often take an aggressive approach to investigations of the Sherman Act. Unlike most federal laws that govern commerce and business, the Sherman Act has a criminal component. As such, a violation of the Sherman Act can result in criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100 million for a corporation and $1 million for an individual. When the amount in question exceeds $100 million, however, the maximum fine can be increased to twice the amount the conspirators gained from the illegal acts or twice the money lost by the victims of the crime.
What Is the Federal Trade Commission Act?
Passed in 1914, the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” After the passage of the FTC Act, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Act in such a way as to make all violations of the Sherman Act violations of the FTC Act as well. Consequently, the FTC is capable of bringing cases that involve the same types of prohibited activities outlined in the Sherman Act as well as activities that do not fit into the Sherman Act.
What Is the Clayton Act?
Also passed in 1914, the Clayton Act fills in gaps left by the Sherman Act. For example, the Clayton Act prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.” Amended by the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, the Clayton Act also bans certain discriminatory prices, services, and allowances in dealings between merchants. The 1976 amendment to the Clayton Act, known as the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, mandates advance notice to the government when companies plan a large merger or acquisition. Finally, the Clayton Act allows a private party to sue for triple damages when they have been harmed by a violation of the Sherman or Clayton Act as well as to obtain a court order prohibiting the anti-competitive practice going forward.
Get Help from Experienced Orlando Federal Antitrust Violations Defense Attorneys
If your business is under investigation for federal antitrust violations, you could be facing administrative, civil, or even criminal litigation. Moreover, every day that your business remains under a cloud of suspicion could be detrimental to the financial health of the business. The earlier you retrain the assistance of an experienced attorney, the sooner you can begin to defend your business against the accusations.
If you are being investigated for federal antitrust violations, or if charges have already been filed against you, it is in your best interest to consult with a federal antitrust violations defense attorney at Haas Law as soon as possible. We are dedicated to putting our extensive experience with antitrust investigations and litigation to work defending you and your business.
Call us at 407-755-7675, chat with us online, or submit our online form today. Because we understand that time is of the essence when federal law enforcement authorities are investigating you, our calls are answered 24 hours a day, allowing you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.