The authority to enforce antitrust laws is shared between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The FTC can file antirust lawsuits in either federal court, or in an administrative hearing. Only the DOJ can bring charges under the Sherman Act, the main antitrust law. Also, under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, state attorney generals can file antitrust lawsuits in state or federal court.
Penalties for violating antitrust laws include criminal and civil penalties:
- Violations of the Sherman Act individuals can be fined up to $350,000 and sentenced to up to 3 years in prison. Companies can be fined up to $10 million.
- Violations of the Clayton Act individuals injured by antitrust violations can sue the violators in court for three times the amount of damages actually suffered. These are known as treble-damages, and can also be sought in class-action antitrust lawsuits. Damages also include attorneys’ fees and other litigation costs.
- Violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act the FTC has the authority to issue an order that the violator stop its anticompetitive practices.
- Violations of state antitrust laws state antitrust laws often prohibit the same kinds of conduct as the federal antitrust laws. As a result, the penalties state laws impose are also similar and can range from criminal to civil sanctions.
Antitrust laws are complex and the penalty for violating them can be severe. If you have an antitrust law problem, speak with a business attorney experienced in that area of law. A business attorney can guide you through complicated antitrust laws and assist you if you need to defend yourself in court.