Are you being investigated for a federal antitrust violation?
Let’s take a closer look at this white-collar crime identified by the U.S. Government a long time. This category of crime is against the operation of free trade and capitalism upon which the U.S. economy is founded.
In order to protect businesses, consumers, and the economy from unfair practices, Congress passed the antitrust laws. A trust is another word for “monopoly.” It’s a powerful company with little or no competition.
There are three principal federal antitrust laws:
- The Sherman Act
- The Federal Trade Commission Act
- The Clayton Act
The Sherman Act
Congress passed the Sherman Act in 1890 as a “comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.”
The Sherman Act makes it illegal for competing businesses to unreasonably restrain trade by making contracts with each other, combining or conspiring together.
Of course, the Sherman Act doesn’t make every merging of companies or partnerships illegal. American businesses often merge to form beneficial alliances.
However, some acts are never justified according to the federal government because of how they harm competition. These include things like:
The Federal Trade Commission Act
The FTC Act (Federal Trade Commission Act) was established by the Federal Trade Commission, the investigative body for crimes against free trade. Technically, the FTC doesn’t enforce the Sherman Act.
However, the FTC can also prosecute every type of crime that can be prosecuted under the Sherman Act.
The FTC can also investigate harmful business practices that don’t neatly fit into categories established by the Sherman Act.
The Clayton Act
The Clayton Act also deals with things the Sherman Act doesn’t cover. It prohibits mergers and acquisitions that “substantially lessen competition” or create a monopoly.
This act also prohibits interlocking directorates – where the same person is at the helm of competing companies. It was amended in 1936 to ban allowances, services or prices between merchants that are discriminatory.
In 1976, it was again changed to make it unlawful for companies planning large mergers or acquisitions not to notify the government in advance.
Companies or parties hurt by the illegal practices named in the Clayton or Sherman Act can sue for triple damages under the Clayton Act. In addition, the court can prohibit the anticompetitive practice by order.
Penalties for Violating Federal Antitrust Laws
Most of the penalties for violating the federal antitrust laws are civil. That means only involving money and not criminal charges.
However, the Sherman Act is criminal law, and the Department of Justice can prosecute those who violate it.
If the violations are clear and intentional, like price fixing, individuals and businesses may face:
- Up to ten years in prison and
- $1 million (for an individual) or $100 million (for a company) in penalties.
Federal law also provides for the maximum fine to be increased to twice the amount gained by the criminals or twice the money lost by the victims if that amount is over $100 million.
Michigan’s Antitrust Reform Act
Michigan’s Antitrust Reform Act, which is outlined in Section 445.771 of the Michigan legislature, prohibits the same monopolies.
It is not, however, a criminal statute and only provides for private lawsuits. There is a four-year statute of limitations for filing a claim under this law.
Michigan Antitrust Violation Attorney
If you are facing an antitrust violation charge, the penalties you may have to pay could be severe. You could even be sentenced to prison time.
A skilled antitrust violation attorney will be able to navigate the intricacies of the federal court system. Contact me today.
Let’s get started