The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint alleging that Altria Group, Inc. and JUUL Labs, Inc. entered a series of agreements, including Altria’s acquisition of a 35% stake in JUUL, that eliminated competition in violation of federal antitrust laws. According to the complaint, this series of agreements involved Altria ceasing to compete in the U.S. market for closed-system electronic cigarettes in return for a substantial ownership interest in JUUL, by far the dominant player in that market. In an initial decision announced on Feb. 24, 2022, Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell dismissed the antitrust charges in the complaint.
In some situations the FTC files a complaint under its administrative process instead of taking the case to a federal court. This is called an adjudicative proceeding. The party can decide to settle with us or they can contest the charges. If they contest the case it is heard before an administrative law judge in a trial-type proceeding. The Legal Library has information about cases brought by us before an administrative law judge.
The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint and authorized a federal court lawsuit to block Illumina’s $7.1 billion proposed acquisition of Grail—a maker of a non-invasive, early detection liquid biopsy test that can screen for multiple types of cancer in asymptomatic patients at very early stages using DNA sequencing. Illumina is the only provider of DNA sequencing that is a viable option for these multi-cancer early detection, or MCED, tests in the United States.
The complaint alleges the proposed acquisition will diminish innovation in the U.S. market for MCED tests, which could be used to detect up to 50 types of cancer. Most of these types of cancer are not screened for at all today, and the MCED test could save millions of lives around the world. The trial began on Aug. 24, 2021. On May 20, 2021, the FTC authorized staff to dismiss its federal court complaint for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order.
In March 2022, the FTC issued an administrative complaint against Denver-based HomeAdvisor, Inc. – a company affiliated with Angi – alleging it used a wide range of deceptive and misleading tactics in selling home improvement project leads to service providers since 2014, including small businesspeople operating in the “gig” economy.
The Federal Trade Commission filed a law enforcement action to block U.S. semiconductor chip supplier Nvidia Corp.’s $40 billion acquisition of UK-based semiconductor design firm Arm Ltd., the largest transaction in the history of the semiconductor industry. The FTC’s action seeks to preserve competition in markets for computer chips used in datacenters and in automotive advanced driver assistance systems. The complaint named Nvidia Corp., Arm Ltd., and Arm owner Softbank Group Corp. In February 2022, Nvidia Corp. announced that it had terminated its proposed acquisition of Arm Ltd. (Arm) from SoftBank Group Corp, and the Commission dismissed the complaint.
The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint and authorized a suit in federal court, to block Hackensack Meridian Health, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Englewood Healthcare Foundation. The complaint alleges that the merged healthcare system would control three of the six inpatient general acute care hospitals in Bergen County, New Jersey. The proposed acquisition would eliminate close competition between Hackensack Meridian Health and Englewood in Bergen County and leave insurers with few alternatives for inpatient general acute care services, which encompass a broad range of inpatient medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment services that require an overnight hospital stay. On Aug. 4, 2021, the FTC obtained a preliminary injunction halting the acquisition while the administrative trial is underway. On March 22, 2022, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the preliminary injunction. The administrative trial is scheduled to begin on April 22, 2022.
The Federal Trade Commission authorized an administrative complaint and a suit in federal court to block the acquisition of Saint Peter’s Healthcare System by RWJBarnabas Health, or RWJ, which is one of the largest hospital systems in New Jersey. The complaint alleges that in Middlesex County, in the central part of the state, the acquisition will harm competition for inpatient general acute care services, which are a broad range of essential medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment services that require an overnight hospital stay. The FTC’s federal court suit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the deal and maintain the status quo while the agency pursues an administrative trial on the merits of the case. On June 14, 2022, the parties announced that they had abandoned the transaction.
In March 2022, the FTC announced that two Texas-based companies and their owner are banned from advertising or selling dietary supplements, and from making claims that their products treat, cure, or reduce the risk of disease, under a proposed settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The agency announced final approval of the order in June 2022.
The Federal Trade Commission issued an administrative complaint challenging Axon Enterprise, Inc.’s consummated acquisition of its body-worn camera systems competitor VieVu, LLC. Before the acquisition, the two companies competed to provide body-worn camera systems to large, metropolitan police departments across the United States. According to the complaint, Axon’s May 2018 acquisition reduced competition in an already concentrated market. Before their merger, Axon and VieVu competed to sell body-worn camera systems that were particularly well suited for large metropolitan police departments. The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint was 5-0. On April 17, 2020, the Commission announced a proposed settlement with Safariland, which is one of the respondents and the parent company of VieVu. The final settlement was issued on June 11, 2020. The administrative trial was scheduled to begin on Oct. 13, 2020, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered a stay until further notice.
The Federal Trade Commission and the State of Florida are taking action against Grant Bae and its owner, Traeshonna P. Graham, a COVID-19 scammer preying on minority-owned small businesses seeking pandemic relief. The complaint alleges that the fictitious grant-writing service scammed each business out of thousands of dollars with false promises of easy access to “guaranteed” grant funding and COVID-19 economic benefits that did not materialize. In response to a complaint filed by the FTC and the State of Florida, a federal court has temporarily shut down the company and frozen the defendants’ assets.
The Federal Trade Commission sued SPM Thermo-Shield, Inc., and its principals Peter J. Spiska, and George P. Spiska, alleging they make false or unsubstantiated R-value and energy savings claims about their architectural coatings products. In July 2020, the FTC sued four companies that sell paint products used to coat buildings and homes, alleging that they deceived consumers about their products’ insulation and energy-savings capabilities. In complaints filed in federal court, the FTC charged that the companies falsely overstated the R-value ratings of the coatings, making deceptive statements about heat flow and insulating power. The FTC announced a summary judgment ending the litigation in June 2022.
The Federal Trade Commission authorized an administrative complaint and a suit in federal court to block the proposed merger of two large healthcare systems in Utah, alleging the deal would lead to higher prices and lower quality of care in the region surrounding Salt Lake City, known as the Wasatch Front region. The deal would impact a broad range of essential medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment services that require an overnight hospital stay, known as inpatient general acute care, the FTC alleged.
The FTC’s federal court suit sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the deal and to maintain the status quo while the FTC pursues an administrative trial on the merits of the case. On June 16, 2022, the parties announced that they had abandoned the transaction.
The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against the Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board, alleging that the group is unreasonably restraining price competition for appraisal services in Louisiana, contrary to federal antitrust law. The complaint alleged that the appraisal board’s regulations exceeded the scope of the mandate outlined in the Dodd-Frank Act that required appraisal management companies to pay “a rate that is customary and reasonable for appraisal services performed in the market area of the property being appraised.” Specifically, the board required appraisal fees to equal or exceed the median fees identified in survey reports commissioned and published by the board. The board then investigated and sanctioned companies that paid fees below the specified levels.
Shortly before the administrative trial was set to begin, the FTC and the board reached a proposed settlement agreement.
On April 5, 2022, the Commission announced the final consent agreement in this matter.
The Federal Trade Commission authorized an administrative complaint, and a suit in federal court blocking the proposed merger of Rhode Island’s two largest healthcare providers. The agency alleged the deal would lead to higher prices and lower quality care. The FTC, jointly with the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, filed a complaint in federal district court seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the deal and to maintain the status quo pending an administrative trial on the merits of the case. On March 2, 2022, the Commission issued a statement regarding the parties’ decision to abandon the transaction.
At the request of the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General's Office, a federal court temporarily halted an alleged sham credit card interest rate reduction operation that often targeted financially distressed consumers and older adults in July 2020. In February 2022, the FTC announced that the operators are permanently banned from the debt relief industry as part of court orders resolving charges by the FTC and Florida AG’s Office.
The operators of a massive real estate investment coaching scheme face permanent bans and will pay approximately $12 million for consumer redress as part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Utah Department of Commerce Division of Consumer Protection (UDCP).
The FTC and UDCP alleged that Zurixx, LLC, its owners Cristopher Cannon, James Carlson, and Jeffrey Spangler, and a number of associated companies operated a real estate investment coaching scheme that sold live seminars and telephone coaching using false earnings claims that convinced tens of thousands of consumers to pay them thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
The Federal Trade Commission sued to block Lockheed Martin Corporation’s $4.4 billion proposed vertical acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc, the last independent U.S. supplier of missile propulsion systems. Aerojet supplies advanced power, propulsion, and armament systems, which are critical components for the missiles made by Lockheed and other defense prime contractors. The agency’s complaint alleged that if the deal is allowed to proceed, Lockheed will use its control of Aerojet to harm rival defense contractors and further consolidate multiple markets critical to national security and defense. On Feb. 15, 2022, the Commission issued a statement regarding the parties’ decision to abandon the transaction.
The Federal Trade Commission and a group of seven state enforcers filed a complaint in federal district court against Vyera Pharmaceuticals, LLC, alleging an elaborate anticompetitive scheme to preserve a monopoly for the life-saving drug, Daraprim. The Commission vote to issue the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed on Jan. 27, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In a Jan. 14, 2022 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote found Shkreli’s conduct “egregious, deliberate, repetitive, long-running, and ultimately dangerous.” Judge Cote banned Shkreli for life from the pharmaceutical industry.
The FTC filed a complaint against RCG Advances, LLC—formerly known as Richmond Capital Group, LLC, and also doing business as Viceroy Capital Funding and Ram Capital Funding—and a related entity and individuals. The complaint alleges that, since at least 2015, the defendants have deceived small businesses and other organizations by misrepresenting the terms of merchant cash advances they provided, and then used unfair collection practices, including threatening physical violence, to compel consumers to pay. The FTC also alleges that defendants have made unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ accounts.
RCG Advances, LLC and Robert Giardina are permanently banned from the merchant cash advance industry for deceiving and threatening small businesses and their owners. In addition, the court ordered RCG Advances and Giardina to make an upfront payment of $1.5 million and subsequent payment of more than $1.2 million to refund consumers.