Antitrust and Commodities Manipulation

Antitrust laws apply to almost every industry and all levels of businesses. These laws prohibit practices that restrict trade, such as price-fixing conspiracies, predatory acts designed to achieve or maintain a monopoly, and corporate mergers that would effectively reduce competition or result in a monopoly within a particular market or industry.

The underlying purpose of antitrust law is to protect economic freedom and opportunity by promoting competition in the marketplace. Open competition allows businesses to compete on a level playing field based on quality and price, in turn ensuring that consumers have access to a vast array of well-priced, quality products. Mehri & Skalet, PLLC seeks to ensure a free and fair market, and recover money for consumers that have been harmed by anticompetitive practices.

Antitrust Cases

ATM Access Fees

M&S has filed a potential class action lawsuit on behalf of consumers against the major American banks (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co.) and ATM network companies (Visa, MasterCard), alleging that they have colluded to fix prices that people are charged for using an out-of-network ATM machine, called “ATM access fees.”

Plaintiffs allege that defendants effect this scheme through a rule that an ATM can only charge an access fee on the Visa/MasterCard network if it charges no lesser amount for transactions on other networks. Without such a rule, a competitive market place would allow ATM networks and operators to negotiate discounts on fees and benefit consumers.

Anyone who has used an out of network ATM was likely subjected to an ATM access fee. If you have been charged an access fee when withdrawing cash, and would like to learn more about the case, please contact us.

Rail Freight

Mehri & Skalet represents a lumber company in a proposed class action alleging that defendants, who provide rail freight transportation services, conspired to fix their prices. Price-fixing is one of the most serious antitrust violations, and constitutes a “per se” violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, a per se violation being one that is so malicious that an inquiry into its reasonableness is unwarranted.

Plaintiffs allege that that the defendants are perpetrating a continuing scheme to keep prices at a level above market value. The suit contends that this is done by assessing customers a rail fuel surcharge, a separately identified fee on customer bills, which purportedly compensates defendants for increases in fuel costs. Plaintiffs allege that defendants, by computing the surcharge as a percentage of revenue rather than as a percentage of the actual cost of fuel, use this device as a mechanism to increase the cost of transport regardless of the price of fuel.

Additionally plaintiffs have alleged that the defendants frequently exchanged information between their companies on the rates that would be charged to customers. The result of this information exchange was perpetually increasing prices to supracompetitive levels that would not be feasible in a free market environment.

This case is currently in litigation in the Federal District Court of Washington, D.C.