On the heels of a recent $5 million civil penalty, the CPSC recently secured a $1.5 million civil penalty with help from the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The civil penalty concludes a long saga between the CPSC and a large arts and crafts retailer about vases with allegedly defective thin glass that rendered them prone to shattering. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: March

The CPSC has flexed its regulatory muscle during the first months of 2018 with respect to products that pose risks to children. With the U.S. Department of Justice’s (“DOJ’s”) help, the CPSC secured a $5 million civil penalty against a drug company for its allegedly deficient child-resistant packaging. In December, the DOJ filed a complaint in federal court against the drug company alleging that it knowingly violated the Poison Prevention Packaging Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act by distributing five household prescription drugs with non-compliant child-resistant packaging and failing to report the noncompliance to the CPSC. The complaint alleges that the drug company’s engineers drafted a “risk analysis” memo identifying the packaging as non-compliant. Rather than halt distribution and immediately report the non-compliance to the CPSC, the drug company continued distribution with non-compliant packaging while concurrently developing compliant packaging. The company also waited nearly 15 months before notifying the CPSC of its non-compliant packaging. In January, the federal court entered a consent decree for the matter. The drug company agreed to pay a $5 million civil penalty, implement and maintain a compliance program, and maintain and enforce a system of internal controls and procedures. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: February

On February 15, 2018, by a vote of 225 to 192, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620). Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was enacted to ensure access for persons with disabilities to public accommodations. Too often, however, serial litigants have abused Title III to shake down businesses for quick settlements over minor, technical violations without actually seeking to improve access. By amending the ADA to include a notice and cure provision, proponents of HR 620 say this bill will curb predatory public accommodations lawsuits brought by serial plaintiffs and their lawyers against businesses.  Continue Reading Houses Passes Bill Aimed at Curbing Abuse of ADA Public Accommodations Lawsuits

October ushered in a case that might, on one hand, provoke a sigh of relief for manufacturers, distributors and retailers concerned about the upward trend in multimillion dollar civil penalties from the CPSC or, on the other hand, raise some eyebrows of concern about the extent of a court’s authority to prospectively impose auditing, compliance and training measures. See United States v. Spectrum Brands, Inc., No. 15-CV-371-WMC, 2017 WL 4339677 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 29, 2017). Continue Reading Recall Roundup: October

The Department of Justice’s (“DOJ’s”) often criticized rulemaking delays have resulted in no new website accessibility rules for places of public accommodation to receive notice of and implement. Notwithstanding the obvious due process concerns raised by these delays, more and more website accessibility cases are being threatened and filed every day. Most, not unexpectedly, settle. Winn-Dixie did not, and what happened next is worth a closer look. Continue Reading Federal Court Rules Inaccessible Website Violates Title III of the ADA

On April 3, 2017, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it completed its review of Danone S.A.’s acquisition of The WhiteWave Foods Company Inc. (“WhiteWave”). In order to allow the $12.5 billion acquisition to proceed, the Antitrust Division is requiring Danone to divest the Stonyfield Farms business to an independent buyer approved by the U.S. government. Continue Reading DOJ Completes Review of Danone/WhiteWave Merger, Requires Divestitures

When a merger raises competitive concerns, the Federal Trade Commission or Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice may require remedies or conditions before the proposed transaction can proceed. Such remedies may be structural, which require the divestiture of business units to a third-party buyer, and/or behavioral, which require a binding commitment regarding the future behavior of the merged firm.  Continue Reading FTC Issues Staff Study on the Effectiveness of Merger Remedies from 2006-2012

Gearing Up For Change in Antitrust Merger Enforcement

“Litigation readiness” was the unofficial theme of antitrust enforcement at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission over the past eight years. Although determining whether this “litigation readiness” actually resulted in the two antitrust enforcement agencies’ bringing more merger cases than we might have otherwise seen is a complicated question, the practical effect was that deal review took longer, faced increased scrutiny, involved more non-parties, was more expensive and faced more uncertainty than in prior administrations. These effects were evident in the recent number of large-scale, high-profile litigated deals involving retail and consumer products companies, including the FTC’s challenges to the proposed mergers of Staples/Office Depot, Sysco/U.S. Foods and Dollar Tree/Family Dollar, and the Antitrust Division’s challenge to the proposed acquisition of GE’s appliances business by Electrolux. Continue Reading Antitrust Merger Enforcement in the Retail Sector

DOJ Merger Investigation Opened a Whole Can of Worms

Retailers and consumers may have been paying out the gills for canned tuna. The Wal-Mart family of stores has alleged a price fixing scheme for canned tuna in Arkansas federal court. Wal-Mart’s complaint casts a wide net, alleging that Bumble Bee Foods, StarKist, Del Monte Foods (former owners of StarKist) and Tri-Union Seafoods (owners of Chicken of the Sea) engaged in large-scale price fixing in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The defendants allegedly hatched the scheme between 2008 and 2010 and canned it in July of 2015. Continue Reading Wal-Mart Seeks to School Tuna Fish Companies in Price-Fixing Complaint

This past week, the FTC and DOJ issued an 11-page guidance document (the “Guidance”) aimed at protecting employees against anticompetitive conduct with respect to naked wage-fixing and agreements, in which companies agree on salary or other terms of compensation, and anti-poaching agreements, in which companies agree not to recruit each other’s employees. The Guidance for human resource (“HR”) professionals and hiring managers relates to both hiring and compensation decisions. Continue Reading FTC, DOJ Issue Antitrust Guidance for HR Professionals