Part III Administrative Complaint
In the matter of Polypore International/Daramic LLC, the Commission issued an administrative complaint challenging Polypore’s consummated acquisition of Microporous Products in the global market for battery separators, a key component in flooded lead-acid batteries. According to the Commission’s complaint, the acquisition, which occurred in February 2008, substantially lessened competition and led to higher prices in several North American product markets including 1) deep-cycle separators used in golf carts, 2) motive separators for batteries used primarily in forklifts, 3) automotive separators used in car batteries, and 4) uninterruptible power supply (UPS) separators used in batteries that provide backup power during power outages. Additionally, the complaint alleged that Polypore engaged in anticompetitive conduct by entering into a joint marketing agreement with a competitor, restricting the competitor’s entry into the polyethylene battery separator markets. The complaint also charged that Polypore sought to maintain monopoly power through anticompetitive means in several battery separator markets. On 3/8/2010, the ALJ announced an Initial Decision finding that Polypore International Inc.’s consummated acquisition – through its Daramic Acquisition Corporation subsidiary – of rival battery separator manufacturer Microporous L.P. was anticompetitive and violated federal law in four battery separator markets in North America. In an Order filed with the Initial Decision on 2/22/2010, Judge Chappell ordered Polypore to divest Microporous to an FTC-approved buyer within six months after the divestiture provisions of the Order become final. Judge Chappell also ruled that a 2001 joint marketing agreement between Polypore and a rival battery separator manufacturer illegally divided up the markets for particular types of battery separators in North America, and ordered Polypore to amend the agreement to terminate and declare null and void the covenant not to compete. Finally, the Judge dismissed a separate allegation that Polypore engaged in exclusionary conduct in specific battery separator markets. In December of 2010, the Commission voted to uphold in large part the March 2010 Initial Decision by Chief ALJ Judge Chappell who had found that Polypore’s February 2008 acquisition of Microporous Products L.P. violated the antitrust laws by reducing competition in four North American markets for flooded lead-acid battery separators. Polypore subsequently filed a petition for review of the Commission's Decision and Order in the US court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. On 07/12/2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the FTC's Opinion and Order, and on 06/24/2013, the Supreme Court denied Polypore's petition for certioari. In December 2013, the FTC approved the sale of all stock and assets related to Microporous to Seven Mile Capital Partners.