Antitrust Laws - Assignment Help
One of the foundations of business within the United States is the freedom to compete in the marketplace; however, certain laws have been created to ensure that the marketplace is free of unfair competition and unlawful monopolies. A monopoly exists when one company owns the entire market or nearly the entire market for a service or a product. There are some situations in which a company can defend against a claim of monopolization. These include cases in which the market is too small to have multiple competitors and cases in which the acquisition of another business was the result of insightful business practices and decisions. The mere fact that a monopoly exists does not make it unlawful-the way the monopoly is created impacts the legality and whether an antitrust action can be brought in court.
The federal government is authorized to enforce the federal antitrust laws that have been created. These laws are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and also the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. Antitrust lawsuits can be filed by a private person or the government. Depending on the law violated, damages can be in the form of civil damages (monetary relief), criminal sanctions, or equitable relief such as an injunction.
The Sherman Antitrust Act was enacted in 1980. This was created to address anticompetitive actions and prohibit the restraint of trade and was applicable to actions that involved more than one party. It specifically addressed conspiracies to restrain trade. The agreement between the parties could be written or oral and even inferred from the actions of the parties. When determining whether an action has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Court analyzes many factors. It determines whether the action is a per se violation, meaning it blatantly violated the act, or whether it violated the rule of reason standard in which case, the court prohibits only unreasonable restraint of trade. Under the rule of reason, the court weighs factors including the industry and the company's place in the industry to determine if a violation has occurred.
Situations occur in which parties agree to conduct business in a way that will directly impact the marketplace. Some actions are illegal based on the Sherman Act. One such violation is a horizontal restraint of trade, which occurs when two or more parties who compete at the same level of distribution enter into an agreement to restrain trade. This can be in the form of price-fixing-a violation in which the parties involved dictate a minimum and maximum price for the marketplace. Also prohibited is a vertical restraint of trade that occurs when the agreement to restrain trade is between parties that are in different areas of the distribution chain. These cases are often be found to be a violation per se or a rule of reason violation of antitrust laws (depending upon the circumstances). Horizontal restraint of trade is generally seen as a per se violation. Sometimes, competing parties will enter into an agreement in which the parties designate certain aspects of the market to each of the parties in the agreement. This is market sharing under the Sherman Act and is seen as a per se violation because it creates a monopoly with that designated area of the market. In the agreement,
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