CCC’s: Valspar Seeks Third Circuit En Banc Rehearing on Summary Judgment Standard

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In a recent guest post, Richard Wolfram discussed his objections to recent First and Third Circuit decisions on summary judgment in antitrust collusion cases.  See Supreme Court Dodges Question of Antitrust Summary Judgment Standard, Higher Bar to Reach Jury Splitting Circuits, Will Valspar Be Up Next?  Mr. Wolfram wrote:

As Evergreen [First Circuit case] explained in its petition, and as applies equally in Valspar [Third Circuit case], to require that the plaintiff show by a preponderance of evidence on summary judgment that a jury would find in its favor effectively pre-empts the role of the jury, infringes on the Seventh Amendment right of the plaintiff, and is illogical, in effect raising the bar by requiring that the plaintiff satisfy the preponderance standard at both the summary judgment phase and at trial.  Inquiring minds may wonder — will Valspar be the vehicle where the Court finally addresses these issues?

The plaintiff in Valspar just filed a Petition for Panel Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc in the Third Circuit.  Echoing the comments made by Mr. Wolfram, appellant’s petition states:

En banc review is necessary because the panel’s decision eviscerates the protections of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by making an unprecedented summary judgment standard for plaintiffs trying to prove a price-fixing conspiracy by circumstantial evidence in the Third Circuit. A majority of the panel incorrectly created a new “more likely than not” standard to evaluate circumstantial evidence at summary judgment.

Valspar’s petition is here: Valspar en banc petition.

Stay tuned.  Thanks for reading

First Charges Brought in Investigation of Collusion Among Heir Location Services Firms

President and Company to Plead Guilty for Agreeing Not to Compete

The president and CEO of a California-based heir location services provider and his firm have agreed to plead guilty to allocating customers with another heir location firm, announced Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

Bradley N. Davis, president of Brandenburger & Davis, and his firm will plead guilty to conspiring between 2003 and 2012 to eliminate competition in the heir location services industry.  Heir location services firms identify people who may be entitled to an inheritance from the estate of a relative who died without a will.  The heir location services firms then help heirs secure their inheritances in exchange for a contingency fee paid out of the inheritances they are due to receive.

“The defendants conspired for nearly a decade to enrich themselves at the expense of beneficiaries,” said Assistant Attorney General Baer.  “Heirs of relatives who died without a will deserve better.  Working with the FBI and our other law enforcement partners, the Antitrust Division will continue to hold the leaders of companies that corrupt the competitive process accountable for their crimes.”

Brandenburger & Davis has agreed to pay an $890,000 criminal fine for its role in the conspiracy.  In a separate plea agreement, Davis and the Antitrust Division have jointly agreed to allow the court to determine an appropriate criminal sentence.  In addition, both the company and Davis have agreed to assist the government in its investigation.  The charge was filed today in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois.  The terms of the plea agreements are subject to approval of the court.

Today’s charge is the first to result from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into customer allocation, price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the heir location services industry, being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Salt Lake City Division, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois.

Anyone with information concerning the focus of this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office at 312-984-7200, visit or call the FBI’s Salt Lake City office at 801-579-1400.