The World in U.S. Courts: Spring 2014 - Antitrust | March.13.2014
Plaintiffs, affiliated companies of Sharp Electronics Corp., and different plaintiffs in related cases, opted out of a class action in U.S. District Court in California accusing multiple defendants of price-fixing in connection with the sale of cathode ray tube (CRT) products, and brought their own suits. One set of defendants affiliated with the French holding company Thomson SA moved to dismiss on multiple grounds, including, as relevant here, that the alleged conduct did not satisfy the requirements of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (FTAIA), which generally limits cases brought in U.S. courts to those having "a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect" on import or export commerce or commerce within the U.S.
Thomson argued that the complaint alleged only meetings outside the U.S. to fix worldwide prices, not U.S. prices specifically, and that any effect in the U.S. was "indirect and attenuated." The court disagreed with Thomson’s characterization of the complaint, concluding that Sharp had alleged that the French Thomson parent had engaged in meetings outside the U.S. specially relating to price-fixing within the U.S. market. Thus, the court found, the FTAIA was not a bar to the present action. The court noted, but did not address, that the law was unsettled whether the FTIA was jurisdictional or whether it was merely a required element of a claim, the answer to which could have implications with regard to pleading and burden of proof, among other things.
[Editor’s note: This case is also addressed under the Personal Jurisdiction section of this report.]