Antitrust Laws Lawyers

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What Is Antitrust Law?

Antitrust laws are laws designed to ensure free competition in the U.S. marketplace by regulating the ways in which companies conduct their business. Antitrust law prohibits practices that stifle free competition, such as monopolies, lockup agreements, certain types of mergers, and price-fixing.

How Does Antitrust Law Apply to the Health Care Industry?

Antitrust law in the health care industry has only developed recently, within the past thirty years. Before the 1970s, antitrust laws were generally not applied to learned professions like medicine and law. During that time, however, healthcare expanded from a local profession to a national service. In 1975, the Supreme Court ruled that antitrust law is applicable to the practice of medicine, and other learned professions.

The two federal agencies in charge of enforcing antitrust laws, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), issued joint policy statements in mid-1996 about how antitrust law applies to the health care industry. The statements create safety zones for certain conduct by healthcare providers. As long as the providers' act within the guidelines, they are protected from antitrust liability.

Do I Need a Business Attorney?

Antirust laws, whether federal or state, apply to all healthcare providers, from national health maintenance organization to physicians practicing within a network. The complications of healthcare law and antitrust law increase considerable when these areas of law intersect. If you have a healthcare and antitrust law issue, contact a business attorney with experience in healthcare right away.

What Are the Main Federal Antitrust Laws?

The main federal antitrust law is the Sherman Act, which was enacted in 1890. The Sherman Act makes it illegal for companies to agree or conspire to limit trade and commerce that affects the national economy. The Supreme Court has held that this prohibition only applies to unreasonable restraints on trade. What is considered an unreasonable restraint is determined by the courts.

The Clayton Act prohibits companies from forming mergers or engaging in acquisitions of other companies that would either greatly hinder competition in a particular part of the market, or that would create a monopoly.

The Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, which is part of the Clayton Act, gives state Attorney Generals the authority to represent their citizens in federal antitrust lawsuits. This representation is important because it permits individual consumers to join class action antitrust lawsuits for relatively small amounts of money.

The Federal Trade Commission has the authority to enforce the Sherman and Clayton Acts under the Federal Trade Commission Act. This act also generally prohibits unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices, which covers anticompetitive conduct not covered in the Sherman and Clayton Acts.

Do I Need a Business Attorney?

Charges of violating antitrust laws, whether federal or state, are very serious and have the potential to destroy a business. If you have an antitrust problem, speak with a business attorney experienced in antitrust law right away.

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Last Modified: 07-30-2009 10:21 AM PDT

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