Definition of Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law
Antitrust law aims to protect trade and commerce from unfair restraints, monopolies and price fixing. Antitrust law is primarily governed by two federal laws: the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act. Most states also have their own antitrust laws patterned on federal laws.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) investigates antitrust matters and is authorized to convene a grand jury to indict suspects. Civil remedies include injunctions, divestiture and/or cancellation of contracts. Civil and criminal penalties may apply if a company is determined to be in violation of antitrust laws. Criminal acts are punishable by large fines and/or imprisonment.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal agency that seeks to promote free and fair competition in interstate commerce. The FTC is tasked with many consumer protection duties, as well. It has exclusive jurisdiction to prohibit unfair competition and unfair or deceptive acts.
Terms to Know
· Sherman Act - A federal law that prohibits monopolies by limiting certain business practices, such as price fixing
· Clayton Act - An amendment to the Sherman Act that places restrictions on mergers and acquisitions on companies that could lead to monopolies or other unfair business competition
· Department of Justice (DOJ) - Federal law enforcement charged with investigating and enforcing federal laws, including antitrust laws such as the Sherman and Clayton acts
· Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - A federal agency that seeks to promote free and fair competition in interstate commerce by protecting consumers from unfair competition tactics
· Monopoly - The exclusive control of a particular market, including the power to control prices and exclude competition
· Price Fixing - A usually illegal process of artificially dictating prices, rather than allowing the market and consumers determine prices through supply and demand
Most antitrust issues arise when the DOJ or FTC investigates large companies about to merge. The mergers are often in the same industry and may involve unfair business tactics or outcomes. In these cases, the antitrust lawyers involved are usually the company's corporate attorneys. However, some corporations may not have an in-house antitrust specialist, so they may seek to hire an attorney who specializes in antitrust.
Smaller corporations and businesses may also be involved in antitrust issues. Small businesses often file complaints about unfair competition with the FTC. These businesses often hire antitrust attorneys in order to ensure that the process for filing a complaint is followed and to help make the most persuasive case for government action.