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Derek Ludwin

Derek Ludwin advises clients on high-stakes antitrust litigation, criminal cartel and civil government investigations, transactions, licensing, and compliance issues. Mr. Ludwin has significant experience helping clients successfully navigate difficult, multi-faceted investigations and complex litigations, and has built a record of achieving positive outcomes.

On July 19, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (collectively, “the Agencies”) issued a new set of merger guidelines in draft form for public comment (the “Draft Guidelines”).  The Draft Guidelines, if adopted, will replace the Horizontal Merger Guidelines issued in 2010 and the Vertical Merger Guidelines issued in 2020 (the latter of which the FTC withdrew in September 2021).  The updates make significant changes to the guidelines, such as:

  • Lowering the thresholds for when the Agencies are likely to presume that horizontal mergers are illegal;
  • Including—for the first time—a presumption of illegality for certain vertical mergers;
  • Adding guidelines focused on serial acquisitions and acquisitions of potential competitors;
  • Introducing concepts related specifically to multi-sided “platforms”; and
  • Explicitly addressing the effects of transactions on labor markets for the first time.

Continue Reading U.S. Antitrust Agencies Propose Major Changes to Merger Guidelines

On December 10th, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced its first criminal indictment targeting an alleged conspiracy to reduce employee wages. The DOJ charged the former owner of a therapist staffing company with conspiring to reduce pay rates for healthcare worker contractors, but did not charge the company itself. Specifically, the indictment alleges that, for a six-month period in 2017, the defendant and his co-conspirators exchanged non-public information on rates paid to healthcare workers; discussed and agreed to decrease rates paid to healthcare workers; implemented rate decreases in accordance with their agreement; and paid healthcare workers at collusive and noncompetitive rates. The indictment alleges that the defendant’s behavior constitutes a per se violation of the antitrust laws and seeks penalties including fines and potential imprisonment. The indictment also includes an obstruction of justice charge, stemming from allegedly false or misleading information the defendant provided the Federal Trade Commission during the agency’s investigation of the same subject matter.
Continue Reading Antitrust Division Brings First Criminal Wage-Fixing Charge

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on supply chains, creating shortages and, in some cases, raising prices of vital medical and consumer products. It is no surprise that consumers, businesses, and government authorities are sounding the alarm about potential price gouging and pursuing those who appear to be exploiting the current crisis. On March 23, President Trump signed Executive Order 13910 under the Defense Production Act, which, among other things, prohibits hoarding of designated materials for the purpose of price gouging. Various federal agencies have warned that they will vigorously prosecute related conduct. Many state authorities have triggered the operation of price gouging statutes or stated their intention to use other available enforcement tools.

The uncertainty surrounding these competing legal frameworks can present challenges for suppliers of in-demand products at all levels of the distribution chain. There is no uniform definition of the offense of price gouging, which generally refers to opportunistic pricing at above-market rates or dramatic increases of prices for products in critical need. The diverse set of applicable state and federal laws vary in their operation and scope. This alert identifies the key federal and state enforcement risks and provides practical guidance for suppliers and purchasers seeking to navigate these issues.
Continue Reading Federal and State Price-Gouging Enforcement in the Era of COVID-19