Under federal law, there are three major anti-trust laws: the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act.
In brief, the Sherman Act was passed in 1890 to outlaw contracts or agreements that unreasonably restrain interstate and international trade. A company that simply garners the market majority by producing the best product and through aggressive sale does not violate the Sherman Act. A violation requires an agreement between competitors to manipulate the market. Criminal penalties are available under the Sherman Act.
The Clayton Act prohibits mergers or acquisitions or other conduct that is likely to lessen competition. If the merger or acquisition is large enough, the parties must notify and seek approval from the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. The Clayton Act has no criminal penalties.
The Federal Trade Commission Act created the federal agency responsible for monitoring unfair methods of competition in interstate commerce. Like the Clayton Act, the FTCA does not permit criminal penalties. It should be noted that other agencies investigate and civilly prosecute unfair trading practices, including the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.
Differing Standards of Proof in Civil and Criminal Cases
There are different standards of proof for civil and criminal anti-trust violations. Thus, counsel may have to facilitate settlements with disparate federal agencies and be ready to defend in different jurisdictions. In some cases, we have been able to settle the matter globally, so that a defendant's fine in the criminal case satisfies the civil penalty.
The attorneys of Hilder & Associates, P.C., have been involved in high-profile anti-trust cases involving the oil drilling industry and the freight forwarding industry. Contact our law firm in Houston to discuss your case.