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.
In November 2008, the Commission issued an administrative complaint charging that the acquisition of CCC Information Services by Mitchell International, a transaction valued at $1.4 billion, would be anticompetitive in the market for “estimatics”, a database system used by auto insurers and repair shops to generate repair estimates for consumers. According to the complaint, the transaction would also harm competition in the market for total loss valuation (TLV) systems, used to inform consumers when their vehicle has been totaled. The transaction would create a new entity with well over half of the market share for these systems, allowing for unilateral price increases, and facilitating coordination among the remaining smaller competitors in the market. The Commission concurrently authorized staff to file a complaint in Federal District Court. On March 9, 2009, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order preventing the parties from consummating the transaction pending a full administrative trial on the merits. On March 13, 2009, since the respondents announced that they decided not to proceed with the proposed merger the Commssion dismissed the Administrative Complaint.
CRH plc, Oldcastle, Inc., Oldcastle Architectural, Inc., Robert Schlegel, and Pavestone Company, L.P., In the Matter of
The Commission issued an administrative complaint to challenge Oldcastle Architectural’s (a subsidiary of CRH) proposed $540 million acquisition of Pavestone Companies as anticompetitive in the US market for drycast concrete hardscape products sold to retailers such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart Stores. According to the complaint, the acquisition would reduce competition by combining the only two companies capable of the national manufacture and sale of these heavy products, which include concrete pavers, segmented retaining wall blocks, and concrete patio products, due to the difficulty in distribution of such products, and the fact that both Oldcastle and Pavestone already possess large distribution networks. The acquisition as proposed would result in Oldcastle gaining a 90% market share for the manufacture and sale of these drycast products to home centers in the United States. The Commission also authorized staff to file a complaint in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent consummation of the proposed transaction, but the respondents decided not to proceed with the proposed merger and the Commssion dismissed the administrative complaint.
The Commission issued an administrative complaint to block CCS Corporation’s proposed $85 million acquisition of Newpark Environmental Services. According to the complaint, the proposed transaction was anticompetitive because it would consolidate two of the leading providers of waste disposal services for the offshore oil and natural gas exploration and production industry in the Gulf Coast Region, leading to higher prices and decreased service levels. In response to the complaint, CCS, a subsidiary of Red Sky, threatened to close down its operations in the Gulf Coast should the acquisition not receive the necessary regulatory approvals. The Commission filed for a preliminary injunction, and temporary restraining order in federal court. As a result, the parties abandoned the transaction, and the Commission dismissed its administrative complaint.
An administrative law judge upheld the administrative complaint that charged that the North Texas Specialty Physicians (NTSP), a physician group practicing in Forth Worth, Texas, collectively determined acceptable fees for physician services in negotiating contracts with health insurance plans and other third party payers; thus engaging in horizontal price fixing. On December 1, 2005, the Commission issued a unanimous decision upholding the allegations that NTSP negotiated agreements among participating physicians on price and other terms, refused to negotiate with payers except on terms agreed to among its members, and refused to submit payors offers to members if the terms did not satisfy the group’s demands. The Commission concluded that the group’s contracting activities with payors amounts to unlawful horizontal price fixing and that respondent’s efficiency claims were not legitimate and not supported by the evidence.
The respondent appealed the Commission decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Court agreed with the Commission that the anticompetitive effects of NTSP’s practices were obvious. Per remand by the Court, the Commission modified one provision of its remedial order, issuing a Final Order in September 2008. On February 28, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied NTSP's petition for review.
On February 10, 2004 the Commission issued an administrative complaint alleging that following Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Corporation's acquisition of Highland Park Hospital prices charged to health insurers for medical services increased and, therefore, higher costs for health insurance were passed on to consumers of hospital services in the Cook and Lake counties of Illinois. The complaint also alleged that a physicians group affiliated with both hospitals, Highland Park Independent Physician Group, negotiated prices for physicians on staff at Evanston as well as for several hundred independent physicians not affiliated with either hospital. According to the complaint, these actions constitute illegal price fixing among competing physicians or physician groups and deny consumers the benefits of competition in physician services. In an initial Decision, the Administrative law judge found that the acquisition resulted in higher prices and substantially lessened competition for acute care inpatient services in parts of Chicago’s northwestern suburbs. The ALJ entered an order that would require the divestiture of the acquired hospital. On appeal, the Commission ruled that the acquisition was anticompetitive, but concluded that in this “highly unusual case,” divestiture, the remedy imposed by the administrative law judge, would be too costly and potentially risky and instead imposed a conduct remedy. The Commission’s order requires Evanston to set up two separate and independent contract negotiation teams to bargain with managed care organizations to revive competition between Evanston’s two hospitals and the Highland Park hospital.
Equitable Resources, Inc., Dominion Resources, Inc., Consolidated Natural Gas Company, and The Peoples Natural Gas Company, In the Matter of
The Commission issued an administrative complaint and initiated federal court action to block Western Refining, Inc.’s $1.4 billion proposed acquisition of rival energy company Giant Industries, Inc. to preserve competition in the supply of bulk light petroleum products, including motor gasoline, diesel fuels, and jet fuels, in northern New Mexico. After a week-long trial, the federal district court denied the Commission’s motion for a preliminary injunction, rejecting arguments that Giant had unique opportunities to increase supply and lower fuel prices in northern New Mexico. In October of 2007, the Commission dismissed its administrative complaint, concluding that further prosecution would not be in the public interest.
The Commission settled a September 15 2003 administrative complaint charging the South Carolina State Board of Dentistry with unlawfully restraining competition by enacting a rule that required a dentist to examine every child before a dental hygienist could provide preventive dental care – such as cleanings – in schools. The Board, which is a state regulatory agency composed primarily of practicing dentists, claimed that its actions were immune from antitrust challenge under the state action doctrine, but that argument was rejected in a 2004 Commission opinion holding that the Board’s conduct was directly contrary to state law. In 2006, the court of appeals dismissed the Board’s interlocutory petition for review for lack of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari in January 2007. The FTC’s 2007 consent requires the Board to publicly support the current state public health program that allows hygienists to provide preventive dental care to schoolchildren, especially those from low-income families.
The Commission filed an administrative complaint challenging a set of rules adopted by MiRealSource, Inc. to keep Exclusive Agency Listings from being listed on its MLS, as well as other rules that restricted competition in real estate brokerage services. The complaint alleges that the conduct was collusive and exclusionary, because in agreeing to keep non-traditional listings off the MLS or from public Web sites, the brokers enacting the rules were, in effect, agreeing among themselves to limit the manner in which they compete with one another, and withholding valuable benefits of the MLS from real estate brokers who did not go along. On February 5, 2007 the Commission approved a consent order in which MiRealSource agreed to abandon such collusive conduct and provide its services to all member brokers representing potential home sellers, regardless of the type of listing contract that they choose.
After an administrative trial, the administrative law judge found that a group of affiliated intrastate movers had engaged in horizontal price-fixing by filing collective rates on behalf of its member motor common carriers for the intrastate transportation of property within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The judge also ruled that the association’s conduct was not protected by the state action doctrine because the State of Kentucky did not supervise the rate-making practices of the group. On July 12, 2004, the Kentucky Household Goods Carriers Association, Inc. filed an appeal of the initial decision with the Commission. On June 22, 2005, the Commission issued a unanimous opinion finding that the Kentucky Household Goods Carriers Association, Inc. engaged in illegal price-fixing by jointly filing tariffs containing collective rates on behalf of its members, and that the state action doctrine does not immunize that activity from antitrust liability. On August 22, 2006, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the opinion of the Commission.
An administrative law judge dismissed a complaint in its entirety against Union Oil of California that charged the company with committing fraud in connection with regulatory proceedings before the California Air Resources Board regarding the development of reformulated gasoline. The judge ruled much of Unocal’s conduct was permissible activity under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine and that the resolution of the issues outlined in the complaint would require an in depth analysis of patent law which he believed were not with the jurisdiction of the Commission. In July 2004, the Commission reversed the judge’s ruling and reinstated charges that Unocal illegally acquired monopoly power in the technology market for producing a “summer-time” low-emissions gasoline mandated for sale and use by the CARB for use in the state for up to eight months of the year. While the case was pending before the administrative law judge, Unocal agreed to settle the claims and cease and desist enforcing Unocal’s patents covering reformulated gasoline that complies with California Air resources Board Standard, will not undertake any new enforcement efforts related to the particular patents, and will cease all attempts to collect damages, royalties, or other payments related to the use of any of the patents. The settlement in this case was related to the settlement of FTC charges that Chevron's acquisition of Unocal would substantially lessen competition in the refining and marketing of CARB reformulated gasoline, as Chevron would acquire the relevant Unocal patents through the acquisition and would be able to use its position to coordinate with its downstream competitors, to the detriment of consumers. See In the Matter of Chevron Corporation and Unocal Corporation.
The Commission authorized staff to file a complaint to block Arch Coal, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Triton Coal Company, L.L.C. from New Vulcan Holdings, L.L.C. on grounds that the acquisition would increase concentration and tend to create a monopoly in the market for coal mined from the Southern Powder River Basin and in the production of 8800 British Thermal Unit coal. On April 1, 2004, the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; the court denied the FTC's motion for a preliminary injunction. On June 13, 2005 the Commission announced that it was closing its investigation, saying that it will not continue with administrative litigation challenging the deal.