The FTC has denied a petition by the Superior Court Trial Lawyers' Association seeking a modification or interpretation of a Commission order to limit its scope regarding price fixing. In its petition, received by the Commission on September 20, 2001, and available on the FTC's Web site, the Association sought to modify an order issued by the FTC in Superior Court Trial Lawyers' Association; Docket No. 9171. The order prohibits collective action among the Association's members for the purpose of "fixing, increasing, stabilizing or otherwise affecting in any way" the level of fees paid by the District of Columbia Superior Court to court-appointed lawyers.
The modification requested by the Association would have allowed its members practicing before the D.C. Courts to discuss a possible collective work stoppage addressing the timing of payment - if, for example, the D.C. Courts suspend payment for services rendered - "without the possibility that their conduct would be questioned by the Commission under the antitrust laws." The Association contended that such activities would be "exclusively pro-competitive," as the proposed consultations would not involve any effort to raise or lower the price of the lawyers' services. The petition requested, therefore, that the Commission limit the scope of the order to allow such collective action.
The Commission stated that the proposed collective boycott would - inasmuch as it affected the timing and terms of payment of legal fees - "affect the level of fees for such legal services" as well, and that such action "was squarely rejected when the Supreme Court condemned such conduct as per se unlawful." Accordingly, the Commission disagreed with the Association's assessment that the proposed collective conduct would be pro-competitive. The Commission noted, however, that the Association is free, pursuant to the order and the First Amendment, to petition the government concerning payment procedures and further noted that the District of Columbia Court system was subject to the Prompt Payments Act.
The Commission vote to deny the petition and place a copy on the public record was 5-0. (FTC Docket No. D-9171; staff contact is Daniel P. Ducore, Bureau of Competition; 202-326-2526.)
Commission approval of final consent order:
Following a public comment period, the Commission has approved a final consent order in the matter concerning Royal Ahold NV and Bruno's Supermarkets, Inc. The vote to approve the final order was 5-0. (FTC File No. 011-0247; staff contact is Susan Huber, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-3331; see press release dated December 7, 2001.)
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.