U.S. requests federal Pennsylvania court terminate antiquated antitrust judgments

By Charmaine Little | Apr 17, 2019

HARRISBURG - The United States took its initiative to banish legacy antitrust judgments to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on April 9, filing a memo that backed its argument.

Naming York Corporation, Anthracite Export Association and American Technical Industries, Inc. in its suit, the U.S. pressed the court to eliminate legacy antitrust judgments, described as judgments that don’t aim to protect competition, altogether. They were entered by the current court anywhere from 44 to 56 years ago. 

The U.S. pointed out that it didn’t receive any comments or opposition in its quest to cease the judgments.

“It is appropriate to terminate the perpetual judgments… because they no longer serve their original purpose of protecting competition,” said the U.S. “The United States believes that the judgments presumptively should be terminated because their age alone suggests they no longer protect competition.”

It added that much has changed since these cases occurred, mainly the Antitrust Division’s adaptation of the 1979 policy that put a 10-year term limit on judgments. The U.S. added that the judgments aren’t needed and will actually make room for the court to begin to clear its docket of antiquated cases.

York Corporation’s case rendered a judgment in 1963 and enjoined a defendant air conditioning manufacturer “from limiting, dividing, or restricting customers, territories, or markets for the sale of any York product,” according to the complaint.

The Antracite Export case had a judgment in 1970 and enjoined Anthracite from fixing its prices of anthracite coal offered to any Army program. As for the Am. Technical Indus. Inc. judgment, that was rendered in 1975 and ordered the defendant to offer royalty-free licenses for patents in relation to artificial Christmas trees.

The suit is part of the Department of Justice’s attempt to terminate legacy antitrust judgments. The DOJ’s Antitrust Division released a statement via Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

“Today, we are taking a first step toward freeing American businesses, taxpayers, and consumers from the burden of judgments that no longer protect competition,” said Delrahim. “We will pursue the termination of outdated judgments around the country that presently do little more than clog court dockets, create unnecessary uncertainty for businesses or, in some cases, may actually elicit anticompetitive market conditions.”

While the Antitrust Division began terminating antitrust judgments in 1979, there are still roughly 1,300 legacy judgments that are still open in the docket. Many of these don’t back competition thanks to changes in economics and laws since then.

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