The Eleventh Circuit Limits the FTC’s Authority to Challenge Practices as “Unfair”

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )Featured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

By M. Sean Royall and Richard H. Cunningham, Partners with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and Bennett Rawicki, Associate Attorney, all in the firm’s Dallas, TX office.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit’s recent LabMD, Inc. v. FTC decision imposes significant limits on the Federal Trade Commission’s freedom to prosecute and settle cases the agency pursues pursuant to the “unfair acts or practices” prong of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

Overview of the FTC’s Case Against LabMD

In 2013, the FTC brought an administrative enforcement action against LabMD alleging a Section 5 violation based on purported unfair data security practices.  Among other alleged deficiencies, LabMD failed to identify that a file-sharing program an employee installed on a company computer had for years been exposing confidential patient information to the public.  Continue reading “The Eleventh Circuit Limits the FTC’s Authority to Challenge Practices as “Unfair””

Commerce-Clause Challenge over Washington Coal-Export Terminal Overcomes First Hurdle

longview-coal-export-site-bv
Port of Longview, WA

In a March commentary, we appraised a legal challenge filed by two companies involved in the mining and delivery of coal against several Washington state officials for their role in blocking approval of a water-port terminal in Longview, Washington. The suit, which has attracted amici curiae briefs from neighboring states and other interested parties, took a step forward on May 30 when Judge Robert J. Bryan denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Continue reading “Commerce-Clause Challenge over Washington Coal-Export Terminal Overcomes First Hurdle”

Thanks to the Court, Justice Done in AT&T/Time Warner Merger Challenge

DOJOur nation’s federal prosecutors recommend themselves as dispassionate champions of the law. As then-Attorney General Robert Jackson put it: “Although the government technically loses a case, it has really won if justice has been done.” The government, he said, should seek “truth and not victims.” The United States’ top lawyers repeat these sentiments often.

For the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, seeking “truth and not victims” means prosecuting cases that benefit consumers. And it means winning with strong economic analysis rather than with legalistic maneuvering or chicanery.

By this measure the government’s lawsuit to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner was a shambles. Continue reading “Thanks to the Court, Justice Done in AT&T/Time Warner Merger Challenge”

Trio of Soda Cases Test the Limits of Attorney-Driven Class Action Lawsuits

marguliesGuest Commentary

By Jeffrey B. Margulies, Partner-in-Charge of the Los Angeles, CA office of Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

The approach of many plaintiff consumer class-action lawyers is not difficult to discern: Concoct a factual theory to support a claim under California’s consumer-friendly laws that survives a motion to dismiss and a motion for class certification. Even if the liability case is highly improbable, the economics of the exposure to a certified class of consumers will compel all but the bravest of defendants to settle, handsomely rewarding the plaintiffs’ lawyers with fees. District courts in the Northern District of California, home to a surfeit of cases over alleged mislabeling of foods and beverages, have allowed many dubious factual claims to proceed.

Yet, even as (or perhaps because) the Ninth Circuit has removed obstacles to consumer class actions such as ascertainability (Briseno v. ConAgra Foods, Inc.) and standing to pursue injunctive relief (Davidson v. Kimberly-Clark Corporation), a trio of recent district court decisions over sodas appears to signal either that the Food Court is growing less tolerant of factually implausible claims, or that the plaintiff’s bar has gone a bridge too far. Continue reading “Trio of Soda Cases Test the Limits of Attorney-Driven Class Action Lawsuits”

Court Ruling Casts Constitutional Doubt on State and City Salary-Inquiry Bans

FirstAmendmentBy Marc Dib, a 2018 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering his third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall.

What did you make at your last job? If you have ever had a job interview, then you’ve likely encountered that question. Employers use this common interview question to gauge an applicant’s quality and to determine a fair salary.  A growing number of state and local governments, however, have forbidden employers from asking prospective employees about their past earnings in the name of wage equality.

The basic premise of their argument is that allowing employers to determine job offers based on prior salaries that are historically lower for women and minorities will perpetuate the wage inequity problem. Based on this unsupported assertion, state and local governments have begun passing legislation that bars employer inquiries about past wages. These laws, however, are constitutionally suspect. Continue reading “Court Ruling Casts Constitutional Doubt on State and City Salary-Inquiry Bans”

Fourth Circuit Exacerbates Court Split Over Clean Water Act’s Jurisdictional Reach

sboxermanFeatured Expert Contributor, Environmental Law and Policy

Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP

In a recent decision, Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., Case No. 17-1640 (4th Cir. Apr. 12, 2018), a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that federal Clean Water Act (“CWA” or “Act”) jurisdiction extended to pollutants released into soil that then migrated through groundwater to a water of the United States.  Last, week the full court denied rehearing en banc, clearing the way for a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indeed, with this ruling, it seems ever more likely the Supreme Court will weigh in on this question of the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  In Upstate, the Fourth Circuit panel joined the Ninth Circuit, which recently ruled that the Act did extend to a release of pollutants through groundwater to a water of the United States, Hawai’i Wildlife Fund v. Cty. of Maui, 881 F.3d 754 (9th Cir. 2018) (click here for my analysis of that decision), but those rulings conflict with two earlier rulings by the Fifth and Seventh Circuits.  See Rice v. Harken Exploration Co., 250 F.3d 264, 271 (5th Cir. 2001); Vill. of Oconomowoc Lake v. Dayton Hudson Corp., 24 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 1994).  Continue reading “Fourth Circuit Exacerbates Court Split Over Clean Water Act’s Jurisdictional Reach”

DOJ Issues New Guidance to Avoid “Piling On” in Corporate Enforcement Actions

Featured Expert Contributor, White Collar Crime & Corporate Compliance

Brower_GregGregory A. Brower, a Shareholder with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP in Las Vegas, NV and Washington, DC.

*Ed. Note: This is Greg’s inaugural commentary as a featured expert contributor. Greg is a member of WLF’s Legal Policy Advisory Board, and has extensive experience in law enforcement as a former United States Attorney and Deputy General Counsel of the FBI. He also served five terms in the Nevada legislature, where he was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last month, in several speeches delivered in New York City to separate groups of white collar defense lawyers, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced a new U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy concerning the proper coordination of penalties in corporate criminal cases.  This new policy, implemented by way of a new section in the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual (and a tweak to an existing provision), seeks to address the problem of “piling on” of multiple penalties by multiple enforcement entities in the context of corporate resolutions. Continue reading “DOJ Issues New Guidance to Avoid “Piling On” in Corporate Enforcement Actions”