The Commission issued an administrative complaint alleging that the combination of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System would substantially reduce competition for general acute care inpatient hospital services in the area surrounding Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and lead to reduced quality and higher health care costs for the area’s employers and residents. The Commission also authorized staff to file a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo pending the outcome of its administrative proceeding.
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 a complaint against medical testing laboratory LabMD, Inc. alleging that the company failed to reasonably protect the security of consumers’ personal data, including medical information. The complaint alleges that in two separate incidents, LabMD collectively exposed the personal information of approximately 10,000 consumers. The complaint alleges that LabMD billing information for over 9,000 consumers was found on a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network and then, in 2012, LabMD documents containing sensitive personal information of at least 500 consumers were found in the hands of identity thieves. The case is part of an ongoing effort by the Commission to ensure that companies take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect consumers’ personal data.
The FTC filed an administrative complaint charging that the proposed $982 million merger of Canadian chemical suppliers Superior Plus Corp. and Canexus Corp. would violate the antitrust laws by significantly reducing competition in the North American market for sodium chlorate – a commodity chemical used to bleach wood pulp that is then processed into paper, tissue, diaper liners, and other products. Superior and Canexus are two of the three major producers of sodium chlorate in North America. If the merger takes place, the new company and rival AkzoNobel will control approximately 80 percent of the total sodium chlorate production capacity in North America. By combining more than half of all North American sodium chlorate production capacity in the merged Superior and Canexus, the acquisition is likely to lead to anticompetitive reductions in output and higher prices, the complaint alleges. Additionally, by removing Canexus as an independent sodium chlorate producer, with its large scale and low-costs, the acquisition will also increase the likelihood of coordination in an already vulnerable market, according to the complaint. The FTC also authorized staff to seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in federal court to prevent the parties from consummating the merger and to maintain the status quo pending the administrative proceeding. The FTC and the Canadian Competition Bureau collaborated in this investigation. On June 30, the parties abandoned their plans.
The Commission filed an administrative complaint alleging that Cabell Huntington Hospital’s proposed acquisition of St. Mary’s Medical Center – two hospitals located three miles apart in Huntington, West Virginia--would create a dominant firm with a near monopoly over general acute care inpatient hospital services and outpatient surgical services in the adjacent counties of Cabell, Wayne, and Lincoln, West Virginia and Lawrence County, Ohio likely leading to higher prices and lower quality of care than would be the case without the acquisition. The Commission also authorized staff to seek a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo pending the outcome of the administrative proceeding. On March 24, 2016, the Commission withdrew the matter from adjudication. On July 6, 2016, the Commission returned the matter to adjudication and dismiss the complaint without prejudice and issued a statement.
The FTC issued an administrative complaint and authorized staff to seek a preliminary injunction to enjoin the transaction pending the results of the administrative proceeding, charging that Staples, Inc.’s proposed $6.3 billion acquisition of Office Depot, Inc. would significantly reduce competition nationwide in the market for “consumable” office supplies sold to large business customers for their own use. The complaint alleges that, in competing for contracts, both Staples and Office Depot can provide the low prices, nationwide distribution and combination of services and features that many large business customers require. The complaint further alleges that, by eliminating the competition between Staples and Office Depot, the transaction would lead to higher prices and reduced quality, and that entry or expansion into the market – by other office supplies vendors, manufacturers, wholesalers, or online retailers – would not be timely, likely, or sufficient to counteract the anticompetitive effects of the merger. On May 19, 2016, Staples and Office Depot abandoned their proposed merger after the district court granted the Commission’s request for a preliminary injunction. FTC dismissed the case from administrative trial process.
The FTC issued an administrative complaint charging that Steris Corporation’s proposed $1.9 billion acquisition of Synergy Health plc would violate the antitrust laws by significantly reducing future competition in regional markets for sterilization of products using radiation, particularly gamma or x-ray radiation. The Commission also authorized agency staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in federal court to maintain the status quo pending an administrative trial on the merits. According to the FTC, it is unlikely that new competitors in the market for contract radiation sterilization services would replicate the competition that would be eliminated by the merger. The Commission alleged that the challenged acquisition would eliminate likely future competition between Steris’s gamma sterilization facilities and Synergy’s planned x-ray sterilization facilities in the United States, thus depriving customers of an alternative sterilization service and additional competition. On September 25, 2015 the district court denied the FTC motion for a PI. On October 30, the Commission dismissed the administrative complaint.
On 2/19/15, the FTC filed an administrative complaint charging that the proposed merger of Sysco and US Foods would violate the antitrust laws by significantly reducing competition nationwide and in 32 local markets for broadline foodservice distribution services. The FTC alleged that if the merger goes forward as proposed, foodservice customers, including restaurants, hospitals, hotels, and schools, would likely face higher prices and lower levels of service than would be the case but for the merger. The FTC also authorized staff to seek in federal court a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent the parties from consummating the merger, and to maintain the status quo pending the administrative proceeding. The PI action was filed on 2/20/15. According to the FTC complaint, a combined Sysco/US Foods would account for 75% of the national market for broadline distribution services. In addition, the parties would also hold high shares in a number of local markets. The Commission also charged that the proposed sale of 11 US Foods distribution centers to Performance Food Group would neither enable PFG to replace US Foods as a competitor nor counteract the significant competitive harm caused by the merger. The following state attorneys general have joined the FTC’s complaint for a preliminary injunction to be filed in federal district court: California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia. Following a June 23, 2015 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granting the Federal Trade Commission request for a preliminary injunction, Sysco and US Foods abandoned their proposed merger, and the Commission dismissed its administrative complaint.
The FTC filed separate complaints against the three largest U.S. suppliers of ductile iron pipe fittings, which are used in municipal water systems around the United States. The FTC charged that the three companies, McWane, Inc., Star Pipe Products, Ltd., and Sigma Corporation, illegally conspired to set and maintain prices for pipe fittings, and that McWane illegally maintained its monopoly power in the market for U.S.-made pipe fittings by implementing an exclusive dealing policy. Sigma settled the FTC's charges prior to litigation (final order dated Feb. 27, 2012); Star settled soon after (final order dated May 8, 2012). On 5/9/2013, Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell dismissed charges that McWane illegally conspired with its competitors to raise and stabilize DIPF prices but found that McWane violated the antitrust laws when it excluded competitors from the market for U.S. made DIPF (domestic DIPF). On 5/13/2013, both parties filed notices of appeal of the Initial Decision. On February 6, 2014, the Commission issued a decision finding that McWane unlawfully maintained its monopoly in the domestic fittings market through its "Full Support Program", which foreclosed potential entrants from accessing distributors. The Commission's order bars McWane from requiring exclusivity from its customers. On April 17, 2015, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the Commission's order.
Phoebe Putney Health System, Inc., Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Inc., Phoebe North, Inc., HCA Inc., Palmyra Park Hospital, Inc., and Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, In the Matter of
On 4/20/2011, the FTC challenged Phoebe Putney Health System, Inc.’s (Phoebe’s) proposed acquisition of rival Palmyra Park Hospital, Inc. (Palmyra) from HCA, in Albany, Georgia. The FTC’s administrative complaint alleges that the deal will reduce competition significantly and allow the combined Phoebe/Palmyra to raise prices for general acute-care hospital services charged to commercial health plans, substantially harming patients and local employers and employees. The FTC also alleges that Phoebe has structured the deal in a way that uses the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County (the Authority) in an attempt to shield the anticompetitive acquisition from federal antitrust scrutiny under the “state action” doctrine. The FTC’s staff, together with the Attorney General of the State of Georgia, filed a separate complaint in federal district court in Albany, Georgia, seeking an order to halt any transaction involving Phoebe, the Authority, or Palmyra, under which Phoebe would acquire control of Palmyra’s operations, until the conclusion of the FTC’s administrative proceeding and any subsequent appeals. On 2/19/2013, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded further proceedings. On June 27, 2011, the district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction on the grounds that the transaction was protected by the state action doctrine. On December 14, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. In February 2013, the Supreme Court reversed, finding that the state of Georgia had not clearly articulated a policy that would permit the Hospital Authority to approve anticompetitive mergers.
On 3/14/2013, the Commission issued an order granting complaint counsels motion to lift the stay on administrative proceedings. On 4/9/2013, an amended complaint and renewed motions for a PI and TRO were filed in federal district court in Georgia, pending an 8/5/2013 administrative trial. On 5/15/2013, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia granted the FTC’s motion for a temporary restraining order. On 6/25/2013, the Commission granted the motion to withdraw the matter from Part III, and accepted for public comment a proposed settlement of its charges. Due to the unique circumstances of the Certificate of Need (CON) laws in Georgia, the Commission originally believed it was unable to require that the hospitals become independent competitors. On 9/5/2014, based on public comments received, as well as other information, the Commission determined that Georgia’s CON laws may not preclude structural relief, and voted to withdraw its acceptance of the proposed consent agreement and return the matter to administrative litigation. On 3/31/15, the FTC entered into a settlement agreement requiring Phoebe Putney and the Hospital Authority must notify the FTC in advance of acquiring any part of a hospital or a controlling interest in other healthcare providers in the Albany, Georgia area for the next 10 years, and prohibiting them from objecting to regulatory applications made by potential new hospital providers in the same area for up to five years. The settlement is similar to the one proposed in 2013 and does not require structural relief.
The FTC challenged Graco Inc.'s proposed $650 million acquisition of ITW Finishing LLC from Illinois Tool Works Inc., alleging that it would harm competition in the market for equipment used to apply paints and other liquid finishes to a variety of manufactured goods, such as cars, wood cabinets, and major appliances. In March 2012, the FTC issued an order requiring Graco Inc. to hold separate the worldwide liquid finishing equipment businesses of Illinois Tool Works Inc. and ITW Finishing LLC, while allowing Graco to complete its proposed $650 million acquisition of all of ITW's finishing equipment businesses. The Commission also withdrew its court challenge to the deal. On 5/31/2012, the FTC required Graco Inc., a leader in the worldwide market for key industrial finishing equipment, to sell the worldwide liquid finishing business of Illinois Tool Works Inc. and ITW Finishing LLC under a proposed order, as part of a settlement resolving charges that its $650 million acquisition of several ITW businesses would have been anticompetitive and led to higher prices and reduced innovation for the North American manufacturers who rely on this equipment.
The FTC issued an administrative complaint against Ferrellgas Partners, L.P and Ferrellgas, L.P. (doing business as Blue Rhino) and UGI Corporation and AmeriGas Partners, L.P. (doing business as AmeriGas Cylinder Exchange), alleging that they illegally agreed on reducing the amount of propane in their tanks sold to a key customer. The complaint alleges that, together, Blue Rhino and AmeriGas controlled approximately 80 percent of the market for wholesale propane exchange tanks in the United States. In 2008, Blue Rhino and AmeriGas each decided to implement a price increase by reducing the amount of propane in their exchange tanks from 17 pounds to 15 pounds, without a corresponding reduction in the wholesale price. On 10/31/14, AmeriGas and Blue Rhino agreed to settle FTC charges of restraining competition. Faced with resistance from Walmart, the two companies colluded by secretly agreeing to coordinate their negotiations with Walmart in order to push it to accept the reduction. The consent agreements prohibit the companies from soliciting, offering, participating in, or entering or attempting to enter into any type of agreement with any competitor in the propane exchange business to raise, fix, maintain, or stabilize the prices or price levels of propane exchange tanks through any means – including modifying the fill level contained in propane tanks or coordinating communications to customers. The companies also are prohibited from sharing sensitive non-public business information with competitors except in narrowly defined circumstances.
The FTC challenged Verisk Analytics, Inc.’s proposed $650 million acquisition of EagleView Technology Corporation, alleging that it would likely reduce competition and result in a virtual monopoly in the U.S. market for rooftop aerial measurement products used by the insurance industry to assess property claims. The FTC issued an administrative complaint and authorized staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in federal court. On 12/16/14, Verisk Analytics, Inc. announced that it would abandon its plans to acquire EagleView, and the Commission dismissed the administrative complaint.
The FTC challenged Ardagh Group, S.A.’s proposed $1.7 billion acquisition of Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., alleging that it will reduce competition and result in the two firms – the merged firm and its only remaining significant competitor, Owens-Illinois – controlling in excess of 75 percent of the U.S. markets for glass containers for beer and spirits customers, resulting in higher prices for those customers. The FTC issued an administrative complaint against the two companies, alleging that the acquisition would violate U.S. antitrust law. The proposed acquisition would combine the second-largest manufacturer of glass containers (Saint-Gobain) and the third-largest (Ardagh).The complaint alleges that glass container competitors possess a wealth of information about each other and the glass container industry, and that reducing the number of major competitors from three to two will make it substantially easier for the remaining two competitors to coordinate with one another to achieve supracompetitive prices or other anticompetitive outcomes. The Commission also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in federal court to preserve the status quo pending the outcome of the administrative trial on the merits. On 11/3/13, the parties stipulated to a hold separate order in the federal court proceeding. On 11/8/13 the Commission stayed the part 3 litigation pending settlement discussions. On 4/10/14, Ardagh Group SA agreed to sell six of its nine glass container manufacturing plants in the United States to settle the FTC's charges. The FTC’s settlement order requires Ardagh to sell six of the manufacturing plants and related assets it acquired through its 2012 acquisition of Anchor Glass Container Corporation, along with Anchor’s former corporate headquarters in Tampa, Fla.
The Commission approved an administrative complaint, alleging that a combined Jostens/American Achievement Corp. ("AAC") would control an unduly high percentage of the high school and college rings markets, making it a dominant firm with only one smaller meaningful competitor in both markets. The Commission charged that the proposed combination of Jostens and AAC would likely have been anticompetitive and led to higher prices and reduced service for both high school and college students who buy class rings. The FTC also voted to seek a preliminary injunction in federal court to stop Jostens from proceeding with the proposed acquisition of its close rival, AAC. On April 17, 2014, the parties abandoned their plans to merge.
The FTC challenged Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.’s proposed $2.8 billion acquisition of rival casino operator Ameristar Casinos, Inc., alleging that the proposed deal would reduce competition and lead to higher prices and lower quality for casino customers in the St. Louis, Missouri and Lake Charles, Louisiana areas. In St. Louis, the two companies operated competing casinos, and in the Lake Charles area, Pinnacle operates one casino, and Ameristar is constructing a new casio to open next year. The FTC issued an administrative complaint against the two companies alleging that the deal would substantially lessen competition for casino services in the St. Louis and Lake Charles areas. The FTC also authorized staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, but parties agreed to divest two casinos, one in St. Louis and another in Lake Charles, to settle the administrative charges.
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, finding that the acquisition reduced competition in three of the four relevant markets, and ordering divestiture. 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.
The FTC issued an administrative complaint on 7/17/2010 alleging that the state dental board in North Carolina is harming competition by blocking non-dentists from providing teeth-whitening services in the state. The FTC charged that the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners impermissibly ordered non-dentists to stop providing teeth-whitening services, which has made it harder to obtain these services and more expensive for North Carolina consumers. According to the FTC’s administrative complaint, teeth-whitening services are much less expensive when performed by non-dentist than when performed by dentists. In an Initial Decision issued July 14, 2011, the ALJ found that non-dentists compete with dentists to provide teeth whitening services in North Carolina and that the Dental Board's concerted action to exclude non-dentist-provided teeth whitening services from the market had a tendency to harm competition. The ALJ further found that the Dental Board's action had no valid pro competitive justification and constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade and an unfair method of competition. On February 8, 2011, the Commission denied the respondent's motion to dismiss, ruling that the Board's actions were not entitled to state action immunity. The Commission ruled that because the Board is controlled by practicing dentists, its condcut must be actively supervised by the state. OnDecember 7, 2011, the Commission issued an Opinion concluding that the Dental Board violated of Section 5 of the FTC Act, and agreed with the ALJ that the Dental Board's conduct "constituted concerte action, . . . had a tendency to harm competition and did in fact harm competition," and had no legitimate pro-competitive justification. The Commission concluded that the Dental Board's conduct could be deemed illegal under the "inherently suspect" mode of analysis because the challenged conduct had a clear tendency to suppress competition and lacked any countervailing procompetitive virtue. On May 3, 2013, the Fourth Circuit denied the Board's petition to review the Commission's decision and on 2/25/15, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.