In the late 1800’s, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, which was intended to help reduce the domination of certain markets by only a few corporations. The law only applied to interstate commerce, so states quickly adopted their own antitrust laws. Florida’s was passed in 1980 and is known as the Florida Antitrust Act. As a result of the passage of these laws, companies that are accused of using certain business practices are often charged with antitrust violations, which can have devastating personal and financial consequences for defendants. If you are being investigated for an antitrust violation, whether at the state level or by federal investigators, it is critical to contact a white collar crime lawyer who can help you formulate a defense.
What is a Monopoly?
Antitrust laws were first enacted in an effort to prevent the growth of monopolies, which are defined as concentrations of economic power in the hands of only a few corporations or individuals. Economists and lawmakers are wary of monopolies and trusts, as it is believed that this type of control leads to anticompetitive practices, which in turn leads to price controls and the eventual stagnation of economic growth. The Sherman Antitrust Act and other federal laws were specifically created to prevent this type of conduct in interstate commerce.
Before a person can be charged with a federal antitrust violation, prosecutors must prove that the conduct in question involved interstate commerce. When this burden has been met, prosecutors must then provide evidence that the defendant was involved in one of the following prohibited activities:
- Discriminating in price between different purchasers when the commodities are of equal grade and quality;
- Offering a discount or a rebate on goods or merchandise on the condition that the purchaser will not use or deal in a competitor’s goods or services;
- Making arrangements among competing businesses to divide a market or rig a bid;
- Creating an interlocking directorate, in which one person makes business decisions for competing companies; and
- Creating a merger or acquisition that substantially lessens competition.
The penalties of violating federal antitrust laws can be severe, as the Sherman Act is both a civil and criminal law. However, criminal prosecutions are usually restricted to intentional and clear violations, such as price fixing. Companies that are convicted of violating federal antitrust laws face up to $100 million in fines, while individuals can be fined as much as $1 million and sentenced to up to ten years in prison. These fines can be further increased to as much as twice the amount that the defendants gained from the violation or twice the funds lost by the alleged victims, if either amount exceeds $100 million. Another federal law, known as the Clayton Act also allows private individuals to sue companies for triple damages when they have been harmed by illegal anticompetitive conduct. Plaintiffs can also obtain a court order barring a company from using similar practices in the future.
Call a Member of our Legal Team Today
Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of the dedicated Miami white collar crime attorneys at Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling 305-670-9919. Our legal team is eager to assist you today.