The recent economic upheaval, coupled with corporate and financial scandals and a new administration, created an increasingly sharp focus on antitrust issues. Companies of all sizes are being subjected to intense government scrutiny, and criminal antitrust prosecutions are resulting in record fines and increasingly lengthy periods of incarceration.
Keker & Van Nest’s antitrust practice is well-versed in the sensitive issues affecting civil and criminal matters. On the civil side, we defend against and prosecute individual and class action antitrust claims in federal and state court, administrative proceedings and investigations by government authorities. On the criminal side, we represent individuals and corporations facing federal and state investigations.
Cases of Note
San Jose, et al. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and Allan Huber “Bud” Selig:
The city of San Jose sued our client, Major League Baseball, alleging antitrust violations and various state law claims related to the Oakland Athletics possible relocation to San Jose. The lawsuit claimed that Major League Baseball and its commissioner violated state and federal laws regarding unfair business practices and anticompetitive conduct. It also challenged the exemption to antitrust laws that the U.S. Supreme Court first upheld for Major League Baseball in 1922. We successfully moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ antitrust claims, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling.
In re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation:
We are currently defending Google in an antitrust class action brought on behalf of employees of Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. The case stems from a 2010 United States DOJ antitrust action and a 2013 civil class action of 64,000 workers against the Silicon Valley companies for alleged "no cold call” agreements which restrained the recruitment of high-tech employees.
American Medical Response Inc. et al. v. Paramedics Plus, et al.:
We defended Paramedics Plus from American Medical Response’s (AMR) claims of anticompetitive unfair business practices. After losing the competitive bidding process for Alameda County’s emergency medical services transportation contract to its much smaller rival Paramedics Plus, AMR accused our client of violating California's predatory pricing law, Business & Professions Code Section 17043, in its bid to win the 911 ambulance contract. Despite a minimal amount of precedent, we were able to preserve the statute’s intent, which is to safeguard healthy competition by protecting smaller companies from larger rivals. We received a unanimous 12-0 jury verdict in favor of our client.
Former Employees v. Lucasfilm Ltd.:
We advised Lucasfilm Ltd. in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and then represented Lucasfilm in a series of antitrust class actions brought by former employees of Lucasfilm, Google, Apple, Intel and Pixar. Plaintiffs alleged unlawful agreements related to hiring and employee retention. Plaintiffs and Lucasfilm reached a preliminary settlement of plaintiffs’ claims in July 2013.
State of New York v. Intel Corp.:
We were lead trial counsel for Intel Corp. in a high-profile antitrust case. The New York Attorney General claimed Intel violated federal and state antitrust statutes by maintaining an illegal monopoly in the microprocessor market. We won several key motions near the start of trial that severely limited the scope of New York's case. The matter settled shortly thereafter with a payment by Intel of only $6.5 million in partial repayment of some of New York's costs.
Plaintiffs v. National Milk Producers Federation et al:
We are defending one of the largest dairy producers in the country from an antitrust class action. Plaintiffs claim the dairy producers illegally conspired to raise market prices of milk, costing consumers $9.55 billion.
United States v. Executive:
We defended the former owner of a California-based agribusiness company from antitrust, mail fraud and bribery charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento. Prosecutors alleged our client violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the tomato processing industry by raising and fixing prices, and rigging bids for the sale of tomato paste within the U.S. We were able to negotiate a successful plea agreement.
Discover v. Visa USA, Inc.:
We defended Visa USA, Inc. in one of the largest private civil antitrust matters in U.S. history. Discover sued MasterCard and Visa for alleged antitrust violations, claiming that credit card network rules affected member banks’ ability to issue American Express and Discover cards. The case settled on the eve of trial for billions less than Discover claimed. We also defended Visa in a similar action brought by American Express.
Abbott and Fournier v. Teva, Impax Laboratories, Inc.:
We represented Impax Laboratories, Inc. against Abbott and the French pharmaceutical company Fournier in a plaintiff-side antitrust case that alleged monopolization in a drug market. We led the trial presentation for all of the plaintiffs, and secured a settlement for Impax midway through the trial.
Plaintiffs v. Automobile Manufacturers:
We defended automakers in multi-forum, antitrust litigation involving restrictions on car exports in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Plaintiffs, alleging a broad conspiracy among all major automobile manufacturers and distributors, sought damages of more than $1 billion. We won summary judgment in the lead federal litigation, in several state cases, and in the California state court class action. We also achieved early dismissal of numerous state court actions.
United States Department of Justice v. Business Owners:
We represented a group of family-owned businesses in connection with the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal investigation into alleged bid-rigging in the rubberized asphalt industry. After a number of company employees were called to testify before a grand jury, we convinced the government that their clients’ bidding practices were entirely legal. The government then closed the investigation with no charges filed.