The Role of an Antitrust Litigation Lawyer in a Competitive Market
Maintaining healthy market competition benefits consumers by promoting lower prices, higher quality products and services, and innovation. Antitrust lawyers investigate and prosecute violations of federal laws that prohibit price fixing, monopolization and tying arrangements.
Antitrust cases are highly document-intensive and require deep subject matter knowledge. Those seeking to become antitrust attorneys should have substantial litigation experience.
Defending Against Antitrust Lawsuits
Antitrust and competition law is a subset of federal law focusing on statutes and regulations designed to promote healthy business competition within different industries and geographic markets. This encompasses ensuring mergers do not excessively concentrate market power or form monopolies and prosecuting and counseling individuals and businesses through antitrust enforcement and investigation matters.
Defending against an antitrust lawsuit is a time-consuming and challenging legal matter. It requires an antitrust litigation lawyer to dive into the specific businesses involved in a case and the broader industry in which those businesses operate. This often includes developing a deep familiarity with companies in healthcare, technology, energy, credit cards, publishing and other sectors with significant recent antitrust activity.
Competitors, government agencies or class action plaintiffs can bring these litigation matters. The cases are generally civil and private. Still, they can also involve state law enforcement actions or be a matter of public interest that the Department of Justice or other government agency handles.
These cases may allege improper single-company conduct or allegations of agreements and conspiracies between two or more companies that could include bid-rigging, price-fixing, group boycotts, agreement to divide markets and other restraints of trade.
Defending Against Mergers
Private antitrust litigation often relates to business mergers and can be international in scope. Private parties might file a lawsuit against a company they believe has violated state or federal antitrust laws, and the case could eventually wind up at trial before an antitrust judge.
Some antitrust cases can be incredibly complex and take years to resolve. Typically, an antitrust attorney will work on discovery, which involves reviewing thousands of documents in detail and determining the relevance of each piece of information to the case. This is time-consuming and especially difficult for new associates who might have to second-chair depositions and other court hearings.
Antitrust and competition attorneys must be able to dive into the details of different business industries to conduct this type of work. Attorneys often cited as an attractive feature of this practice that they get to study other businesses in great depth and see how those companies operate in the broader industry.
Another common role of an antitrust attorney is handling merger clearance work. When a client intends to merge with another business, the lawyers will file the appropriate government paperwork and conduct due diligence (similar to discovery in a litigation matter) to spot potential antitrust issues. The clients can then decide to proceed with the merger, agree to a settlement or fight it in court.
Defending Against Antitrust Class Actions
Defending businesses accused of antitrust violations, whether by regulators or competitors, is a significant component of any antitrust practice. Firms specializing in these matters often have attorneys who can quickly and thoroughly understand their businesses to help them defend against allegations of monopolistic behavior or illegal price-fixing.
This requires a deep understanding of the specific business and its industry, as well as the broader market and industry in which it operates. Many antitrust lawyers cite the need to dive into different business industries in detail as an attractive feature of their work, and they frequently participate in class action cases that involve multiple defendants and a broad range of markets and products.
The work of an antitrust attorney can also include counseling clients on mergers and other major business deals, including those that cross jurisdictions or market areas. Clients come to these firms for their experience, strategic thinking and ability to deliver results, particularly in high-stakes litigation.
Antitrust law is a complex area with an unusually wide variety of work. While it may have fewer statutes than some other areas of the law, it also has an enormous amount of case law that defines and fleshes out rules. It also is a dynamic field, and the work can vary dramatically based on economic conditions and politics. For example, when the economy is strong, there’s more merger work, while a downturn can increase litigation.
Defending Against Antitrust Enforcement
Antitrust litigation matters can take several years to pass through the courts. These cases could involve a single competitor accusing a company of price-fixing, other monopolistic conduct, or civil class actions alleging a conspiracy among several companies in a market. The allegations often include conduct restricting competition, such as boycotting, bid rigging or dividing markets or customers.
Antitrust prosecutions can be criminal or civil, and a public company’s stakes are much higher. Public companies will tend to settle a criminal case rather than risk the significant financial and reputational risks of trial. Antitrust prosecutions are also challenging because they require the plaintiff to prove that the challenged practices, on balance, cause more harm to consumers than they fulfill legitimate commercial aims.
They work on both large transactions and smaller ones. They also counsel clients on avoiding antitrust problems in mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, distribution and licensing arrangements, intellectual property investments, product pricing, advertising, trade association activity and relationships with competitors, customers and suppliers.
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