Antitrust Division has kept
subpoena servers busy.

Blawgletter understands that the French phrase "a go-go" originally meant, in the 1400s, "abundantly".  The term may fairly apply to price-fixers — if Blawgletter judges aright from the subpoenas and search warrants flying lately out of the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

Price-fixing — a per se violation of federal and state antitrust law — describes an agreement between competitors to set, maintain, or stabilize prices for goods or services.  The conspirators may monitor and police each other’s pricing behavior to keep their fellow crooks honest.  They may also create fake shortages to force prices up in response to less supply.

The antitrust grapevine keeps up with reports about government investigations into possible price-fixing.  Sometimes the probes produce criminal charges, which always provoke a flurry of civil class actions.  But Blawgletter has noticed that the mere service of a subpoena or search warrant these days may unleash private litigation. 

Recent (and ongoing) examples include:

  • Static random access memory chips.
  • Video graphics processors and cards.
  • Air freight fuel surcharges.
  • Air passenger fuel surcharges.
  • Liquid crystal display flat panels.

Other investigations that have apparently failed to generate civil litigation include:

  • Offshore helicopter services in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Rock crushing and screening equipment.

Why do class action lawyers file suit in the wake of some criminal investigations but not in others?  Do the merits — and potential damages recovery after trial — make all the difference? suggests that evaluation of the merits has little to do with the decision to file class actions and that the potential recovery makes all the difference.  Good for them!

But Blawgletter wonders whether spends its own money in pursuing antitrust cases.  That exercise tends to concentrate one’s analytical skills, Blawgletter supposes.  May we hope for more nuance than the conclusion that plaintiffs’ lawyers sue only in enormous money cases?

Barry Barnett

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