Lessons from FTC’s Loss in, and Subsequent Abandonment of, DirecTV Advertising Case

Featured Expert Contributor, Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )M. Sean Royall, a Partner in the Dallas, TX office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with Richard H. Cunningham, a Partner, and Brett S. Rosenthal and Emily Riff, Associates, with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

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The FTC recently suffered a significant setback in a closely watched advertising practices case against DirecTV.  Specifically, on August 16, 2018, Judge Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted judgment in favor of DirecTV on the majority of the claims at the close of the FTC’s case in chief—including all claims relating to DirecTV’s disclosures in its advertising—before DirecTV began to present its own case in defense. And then yesterday, the FTC agreed to dismiss the remainder of its case voluntarily with prejudice, fully ending the enforcement action.

Judge Gilliam’s decision reflects an emphatic rejection of both the disclosure standards sought by the FTC and the agency’s proposed approach to monetary equitable remedies.  The court’s analysis should be of interest to companies that sell services on a subscription basis or that offer a variety of price, service, and promotional options. Continue reading “Lessons from FTC’s Loss in, and Subsequent Abandonment of, DirecTV Advertising Case”

HHS Drug Price Advertising Proposal Reveals Sweeping View of Government Power over Private Speech

Featured Expert Contributor, First Amendment

By Megan Brown, a Partner with Wiley Rein LLP, with Bert Rein and Steve Obermeier, Partners with the firm.

Ed. Note: This is Ms. Brown’s inaugural post as the WLF Legal Pulse’s latest Featured Expert Contributor.

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The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a new rule to “require direct-to-consumer (DTC) television advertisements of prescription drugs and biological products for which payment is available through or under Medicare or Medicaid to include the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC, or ‘list price’) of that drug or biological product.”  Put more simply, if a drug company runs a TV ad, it will have to include the “list price” of the drug, even though that is not what consumers or insurers would pay.  The proposed rule’s stated goal is to ensure that “beneficiaries are provided with relevant information about the costs of prescription drugs and biological products so they can make informed decisions that minimize not only their out-of-pocket costs, but also expenditures borne by Medicare and Medicaid.” Continue reading “HHS Drug Price Advertising Proposal Reveals Sweeping View of Government Power over Private Speech”

FDA-Mandated Listing of Drug Prices in Ads Would Flunk Legal and Constitutional Tests

first-amendmentWe’ve read with amusement the recent, overblown claims of some constitutional-law commentators and even U.S. Supreme Court justices that the First Amendment has been “weaponized” as a tool of deregulation. Of course, First Amendment challenges increasingly have become indispensable as politicians and regulators target more and more speech rather than regulate conduct directly.

Consider, for instance, the advertising-disclosure requirement floated last May as a part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) blueprint to lower prescription drug prices. HHS asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to evaluate the inclusion of list prices in direct-to-consumer advertising.” The proposal appears to be under serious consideration. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has specifically invoked it when briefing the press and testifying before two Senate committees (here and here). And FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb indicated (in a May interview) that an agency working group will soon study the idea.

If that study includes a dispassionate legal and constitutional analysis, the working group should recommend that HHS scrub the list-price mandate from its policy blueprint. Not only does FDA lack the statutory authority to impose the mandate, but even if it could legally do so, the regulation cannot survive a First Amendment challenge. Continue reading “FDA-Mandated Listing of Drug Prices in Ads Would Flunk Legal and Constitutional Tests”

Missouri’s Unjustifiable Alcohol Ad Limits Can’t Survive First Amendment Challenge

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

Restrictions on the speech of “disfavored” products merit all the more judicial scrutiny because they are easy targets for creating precedents. Earlier this summer, a federal court in the Western District of Missouri rightfully struck down three state restrictions on alcoholic beverage advertising. The court in Missouri Broadcasters Association v. Taylor reinforced the principle that states cannot arbitrarily stifle truthful, non-misleading commercial speech. Continue reading “Missouri’s Unjustifiable Alcohol Ad Limits Can’t Survive First Amendment Challenge”

The Dog That Didn’t Bark in the Night: SCOTUS’s “NIFLA v. Becerra” and the Future of Commercial Speech

supreme court

The U.S. Supreme Court last week issued its long-awaited opinion in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that a California law requiring licensed pro-life counselling clinics to direct their clients to abortion providers  likely violated the clinics’ free speech rights under the First Amendment. Like the famous dog that didn’t bark in the night,[*] however, Justice Thomas’s majority opinion in NIFLA is far more revealing for what it doesn’t say than for what it does say. Continue reading “The Dog That Didn’t Bark in the Night: SCOTUS’s “NIFLA v. Becerra” and the Future of Commercial Speech”

Hailing the First Amendment: NYC Taxi Authority’s Ad Ban Struck Down as Unconstitutional

NYCTLCTaxicab, livery, black car, and limousine companies in the Big Apple may own the vehicles their employees drive, but they know full well who really controls them: the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). Passenger transportation is one of the city’s most heavily regulated businesses, but as a federal district court judge recently reminded TLC, those small business still have constitutional rights. Continue reading “Hailing the First Amendment: NYC Taxi Authority’s Ad Ban Struck Down as Unconstitutional”

Textbook Application of “Obstacle” Preemption Negates Activists’ Organic Food-Labeling Suit

formulaFood Court Follies—A WLF Legal Pulse Series

Several of our recent commentaries (here and here) have extolled the virtues of national uniformity for the regulation of interstate commerce. Those posts focused on litigation involving federally regulated prescription drugs and devices. But state consumer-protection litigation poses an even greater threat to regulatory uniformity.

Federal preemption—the constitutional doctrine that state-law litigation targets regularly cite as a defense—has generally been an ineffective argument against consumer-protection suits, especially those alleging misleading or false labeling of food and other packaged goods. A January 3, 2018 federal trial court ruling, Organic Consumers Association v. Hain Celestial Group, Inc., is a welcome exception to that trend. It’s also notable for how clearly the court explained implied preemption and the broader principle of uniformity underlying the defense. Continue reading “Textbook Application of “Obstacle” Preemption Negates Activists’ Organic Food-Labeling Suit”