Antitrust laws in the United States have evolved over the last century. These laws are designed to influence corporate and commercial strategy, ensuring that consumers are not being taken advantage of and allowing both small and large businesses to succeed.
When a business or organization is being charged with breaking antitrust laws, your legal representation needs to understand not only the laws themselves but how the litigation process works. The white collar defense lawyers at Gebhardt & Eppes will fight for businesses of all sizes that are being charged with this serious crime. We ensure that our defendants understand what is going on in their case, and aid with negotiation, trial representation, and appeals. Here is more information on our Antitrust Defense Attorney Services.
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What Is an Antitrust Crime in the State of Texas?
Antitrust laws were created to ensure that consumers are protected from companies monopolizing and being the sole decider on how much goods and services cost. This helps save individuals millions of dollars every year by allowing for competition to help keep prices lower.
Antitrust cases often take place on a federal scale, as the federal government passes and controls the current laws surrounding antitrust. The three major federal antitrust laws in the United States are as follows:
The Sherman Antitrust Act
This act outlaws all contracts, combinations, and conspiracies that unreasonably restrain interstate and foreign trade. This includes actions such as:
- Companies forming agreements on fixed prices for goods or services
- Companies creating rig bids which is a type of fraud that allows the company to choose who will be the winner of a bid
- Prohibits companies from forming a monopoly
- Prohibits companies from controlling the market for any particular good or service
The Clayton Act
The Clayton Act is a civil statute that prohibits the practice of price discrimination and anti-competitive mergers. It also declares the following acts to be legal under federal law:
- Peaceful strikes
- Boycotting businesses
- Agricultural Cooperatives
- Labor Unions
Other relevant and influential parts of this civil statute are as follows:
- It is unlawful for businesses to price discriminate, price cutting, or predatory pricing to undermine a competitor’s business
- Exclusive deals or attempts to create a monopoly are prohibited
- Individuals have a right to a private lawsuit if they were harmed by the breaking of any antitrust law in the United States
- Sets the precedent that labor is not an economic commodity, protecting workers from being sold or bought like a raw material such as copper.
- The United States Federal Government reserves the right to challenge or handle all mergers or acquisitions that appear to have several companies trying to become one entity/form a monopoly.
Federal Trade Commission Act
It also gives the Federal Trade Commission the power to do the following:
- Seek monetary redress and other relief for conduct injurious to consumers
- Prescribe rules defining with specificity acts or practices that are unfair or deceptive and establishing requirements designed to prevent these acts or practices
- Gather and compile information and conduct investigations related to the organization, business, practices, and management of entities engaged in commerce
- Make reports and legislative recommendations to Congress and the public.
The only one of these Acts that carries explicit legal consequences if broken is the Sherman Antitrust Act. This Act is considered a felony and the extent of that felony depends on the case, such as the number of individuals that were affected by the actions of the company.
The other two Acts have an Antitrust Division that uses other laws to fight against the illegal activities that break these Acts.
What Are the Purpose of Antitrust Policies?
All three of the antitrust policies were created to protect consumers by preventing monopolies and other devious practices that would either prohibit or impede competition. While the intent of these policies is noble, they often result in overreach from state and federal regulators that can prevent a business from growing and lead to businesses being charged with crimes they didn’t commit.
What Are the Most Common Antitrust Violations?
One of the most common antitrust violations is an attempt to acquire a monopoly, which is the act of making a single company the sole provider of a good or service for a specific region. Other common violations are as follows:
- Agreement between companies to work together to restrict further competition
- Price fixing
- Horizontal agreements
- Bid rigging
What Are the Penalties for Breaking an Antitrust Law?
Penalties for violating these acts will vary depending on what action was violated and whether it was an individual or a corporation that was convicted. Here are the penalties for breaking these laws:
- Violations of the Sherman Act:
- Individuals will be fined up to $350,000 and sentenced to up to 3 years in prison.
- Companies will be fined up to $10 million.
- Violations of the Clayton Act:
- Individuals or companies convicted of violating this act can be sued by the individuals who were injured. They can be sued for up to three times the amount of damages they suffered.
- Violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act:
- The Federal Trade Commission has the authority to issue an order that will force the violator to stop its anticompetitive practices. If they refuse to comply, they can face serious charges such as prison time and hefty fines of up to $100 million.
Are You Being Charged for Violating an Antitrust Law?
Antitrust laws can be confusing and cause a lot of red tape for businesses, especially those trying to keep up with the competition. Because of this, sometimes overzealous federal regulators can wrongfully charge an individual or a company for violating these laws. If you are facing a charge of breaking antitrust laws, you will want to contact a trusted Fort Worth antitrust violations defense lawyer.
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The attorneys at Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC proudly represents our clients in Fort Worth, Texas and the surrounding areas and ensures that their rights are being protected. Sometimes, individuals who are being charged with a crime are automatically considered guilty, as the pain and anger of the victims cloud their judgment. Our team protects our clients by helping to create a strong defense, aimed at presenting what happened and getting their charge dismissed or lowering the penalties. Contact our team today for more information on our services or to schedule an appointment with our legal team to go over your case.
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One of the most recognizable anti-trust laws is the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. It outlawed monopolistic business practices in the United States and made such offenses punishable by the federal government.
The Sherman Anti-trust Act makes it clear that all anti-trust crimes are criminal in nature, since there is intention behind the actions. Prosecutions for these crimes are generally reserved for cases where there is strong evidence that the actions were intentional and clear violation of any of the antitrust laws, such as fixing prices or creating rigged bids.