An Overview of Antitrust Crimes and Antitrust Laws in the U.S.

If you have been charged with an antitrust crime, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that several of the existing antitrust laws specifically were created to be subject to interpretation. This allows the judge to examine all the facts of your unique case on its own, and what may have happened in one case doesn’t necessarily apply to yours (although it may be a factor).

The bad news is that not all of the antitrust laws are set up this way. Sometimes, the law is extremely straightforward and there’s not much room for interpretation.

No matter what your particular situation is, you will want to do these three things:

  1. Learn as much as you can about antitrust laws.
  2. Learn as much as you can about antitrust crimes.
  3. Seek experienced and authoritative legal counsel. Weisberg Kainen Mark PL is experienced and has successfully defended individuals in a wide range of white collar crimes.

Antitrust Laws

To start, there are three antitrust laws you should know about. The Sherman Act was created in 1890, and the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act were both created in 1914. Generally, and at its most basic principle, the purpose of these laws is to keep competition in the marketplace so as to protect consumers from monopolies. Here’s a brief guide to what each of these three laws is and says:

Sherman Act

The Sherman Act makes monopolies illegal in the U.S., as well as makes any unreasonable “contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade” illegal. An example of this “unreasonable” activity would be if two or more competitors agree to fix prices, rig bids, or divide markets. Unfortunately, participating in this is “per se,” which means a court wouldn’t need to look at how the crime violated the market or investigate its effects. It is considered a crime upon the violation of the law.

Criminal charges are normally pressed when the violation of the Sherman Act is clear and intentional. This is the case when you fix prices or rig bids. According to the Federal Trade Commission website, “The Sherman Act imposes criminal penalties of up to $100 million for a corporation and $1 million for an individual, along with up to 10 years in prison. Under federal law, the maximum fine may be increased to twice the amount the conspirators gained from the illegal acts or twice the money lost by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is over $100 million.”

Federal Trade Commission Act

The Federal Trade Commission Act created the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It also makes “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” illegal. According to the Supreme Court, all violations of the Sherman Act also violate the FTC Act. This allows the FTC Act to be a broad tool used to charge those who may not necessarily have violated the Sherman Act, but did commit some form of antitrust crime.

Clayton Act

The Clayton Act explains the law for mergers and interlocking directorates (An interlocking directorate is when the same person makes important decisions for two competing companies). Naturally, any mergers that lessen or eliminate competition in the marketplace are illegal.

The Clayton Act has been amended several times. One of the most important amendments was the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976. This Act requires companies planning large mergers or acquisitions to notify the government of their plans.

More Antitrust Laws

The antitrust laws described above are just the federal antitrust laws. Each state has its own antitrust laws. To make sure that you have the best possible outcome, you want a lawyer who is knowledgeable of your state’s specific antitrust laws.

Antitrust Crimes

Some examples of antitrust crimes are:

  • Setting your price so low that you drive competitors out of the market,
  • Tying (making the purchase of one product conditional on the sale of the other),
  • Price fixing,
  • Creating a monopoly, or
  • Not notifying the government of a significant merger or acquisition.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice enforce the antitrust laws. At the state level, the state attorneys general can enforce both state and federal antitrust laws. If you have been charged with violating an antitrust law, the charges can be either criminal or civil. Either way, you will want a knowledgeable lawyer to help provide you with a solid legal defense.

Contact Us

For help with your antitrust criminal charges, contact the experienced team at Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL. Give our office a call today at (305) 374-5544!

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