Antitrust is also known as competition law and generally regulates competition so it is “fair”. Antitrust law can be broken down into three main categories:
(1) antitrust law generally prohibits agreements or practices that restrict free trading and competition between business. This includes in particular the repression of cartels (think: a group of independent businesses working together).
(2) antitrust law generally bans abusive behavior by a firm dominating a market, or anti-competitive practices that tend to lead to such a dominant position. Practices controlled in this way may include predatory pricing, tying, price gouging, refusal to deal, and many others. A common misnomer is that monopolies inherently violate antitrust laws. This is not the case. Rather, what is generally prohibited is a business seeking to become a monopoly through abusive behavior. An innocent monopoly is legal.
(3) antitrust law supervises the mergers and acquisitions of large corporations, including some joint ventures. Transactions that are considered to threaten the competitive process can be prohibited altogether, or approved subject to “remedies” such as an obligation to divest part of the merged business.
Federal and state laws have been implemented to address the three categories of antitrust law mentioned above. Federal antitrust law is generally codified in the following statutes: 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, 2, 12, 13, 18, 52-53. Minnesota’s antitrust law is codified in Minn. Stat. § 325D.49, et seq. State laws are generally interpreted in a manner consistent with federal law.
For a variety of reasons it have become increasingly difficult for a plaintiff to succeed on antitrust claims. Probably the most prevalent reason is that courts employ a higher pleading standard. Because many of the claims a plaintiff would want to bring against an alleged defendant requires a plaintiff to prove a conspiracy between the defendant and others, the practical result is that a plaintiff cannot plead sufficient facts to make a prima facie case that a conspiracy exists.
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