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From Antitrust Law Daily, April 17, 2015

Attorney General reflects on Justice Department’s antitrust record over past six years

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Touting the Department of Justice Antitrust Division's record tally of nearly $1.3 billion in fines and penalties in the most recent fiscal year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today hinted at more criminal antitrust news in the coming weeks during a keynote address at the American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law meeting in Washington, D.C. Noting the vague reference, Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, later joked that even he did not know what the upcoming cartel enforcement case was going to be.

Holder's address marked the first time in the history of the Antitrust Section that the attorney general addressed the group. Holder, who is awaiting confirmation of his successor, reflected on the Justice Department's antitrust record over the last six years.

“This Administration’s commitment to vigorous antitrust enforcement extends as far back as September 2007 when then-Senator Barack Obama vowed that, if he were elected President, he would step up enforcement activity in a comprehensive way,” Holder said. “That’s exactly what we’ve done,” he added, describing the Antitrust Division's approach as “level-headed.” Holder also noted that “where we have found violations, we have been prepared to litigate.”

Holder called the criminal enforcement efforts “unprecedented.” He pointed to the Antitrust Division's cartel investigation in the auto parts industry, which he called the largest criminal antitrust probe in history.

Civil enforcement. On the civil side, Holder noted the Antitrust Division's successes against Apple in the e-books case and American Express, with respect to its “anti-steering rules.” The federal district court in New York City has found that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy among publishers to fix retail prices for e-books. The federal district court in Brooklyn, New York, recently held that the AmEx rules, which prevent merchants who accept AmEx cards from steering customers to alternative credit card brands, violate Sec. 1 of the Sherman Act. Both matters are on appeal.

Stressing the importance of antitrust enforcement, Holder warned “there is no unlawful conduct too complicated to pursue, and no company or individual too large or too powerful to be held accountable for actions that harm the American people.”

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