Antitrust Common Schemes
Criminal antitrust violations can take many forms. Price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation schemes are the most commonly cited “per se” Sherman Act violations, and are regularly prosecuted by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. However, other types of business conduct can fall within the purview of the criminal provisions of the federal antitrust legislation. For example, group boycotts have been held to violate the Sherman Act, and are therefore illegal. The criminal provisions of the Sherman Act can also be implicated in business contexts from pricing strategies to mergers and acquisitions.
All antitrust crimes have one common element: collusion. This is the agreement, the corrupt bargain between competitors to increase profits by decreasing competition. When rival firms stop competing on the basis of price, prices go up. Without a low cost substitute provider of the goods or services, customers are left with no choice but to accept higher prices when rival firms act in concert. This deprives the public of the benefits of market competition (i.e. lower prices), while allowing the collusive firms to reap higher-than-normal profits. It is precisely this sort of arrangement that the Sherman Act was designed to target.
Navigating the criminal antitrust provisions is a task for only the most competent and experienced attorneys. Bid rigging is a per se Sherman Act violation; as a matter of law, neither good motives nor belief that one’s activities are legal are available defenses. If you find yourself the target of an investigation or the subject of an antitrust indictment, retaining the best counsel available must be your highest priority. The professionals at Parkman White, LLP have years of experience in antitrust litigation, and are experts in this complicated area of law.