The United States has specific laws regarding the ways in which businesses practice. These laws are conducive to healthy competition among businesses, but when one individual or company tries to get around the competition, they may be in violation of antitrust laws. 

risks of violating antitrust laws

What is Antitrust Law?

Antitrust laws are a group of local, state, and federal legislation that encourages competition and discourages unfair monopolies. They’re an aspect of business law that discourages unfair business practices while giving consumers more options. Different forms of antitrust laws have been in effect in the United States since 1890, although many aspects of the laws remain in effect today. What started with the Sherman Act has expanded and evolved. Now enforced by the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ), antitrust laws encourage a free market both locally and across the country. Location can play a role in antitrust laws since many states have their own set of antitrust laws that work alongside federal laws. All businesses must abide by antitrust laws, which can be brought to court to decide the legality of a company or individual’s actions. If found in violation, each party faces severe consequences. 

Examples of Antitrust Violations

In 2023 alone, both the FTC and DOJ oversaw dozens of antitrust cases involving both individuals and companies in a variety of industries. One case involved an investigation into price fixing in the pharmaceutical industry. The case involved four individual executives and seven companies that engaged in various antitrust violating behavior, including price fixing. The practice of fixing prices is considered in violation of antitrust laws because it can artificially raise prices, harming the consumer. 

In addition to price fixing, other examples of antitrust violations include:

  • Wage Fixing
  • Bid Rigging
  • Monopolies
  • Exclusive Contracts

Penalties for Violating Antitrust Laws

The consequences of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act and other laws are severe. In addition to civil penalties, those in violation of antitrust laws can face charges from the DOJ including fines and prison time. The penalty depends on the circumstances for a violation; for example, individuals can be fined up to $1 million, while corporations can incur fines up to $100 million. Some verdicts include prison sentences up to 10 years.

 It’s important to retain legal counsel when a company or corporation is making decisions that could be interpreted as violating antitrust laws. The phrasing of various antitrust laws is intentionally broad to include a wide range of behaviors. Preventing a potentially dangerous practice is the key to staying compliant with state and federal antitrust legislation. A business law attorney should be there to advise on certain business transactions and processes to avoid the consequences of violating antitrust laws. 

Contact a Business Law Attorney Today

Get expert advice for your business from the antitrust law experts at Attolles Law, S.C. We help businesses in Wisconsin avoid costly litigation in regards to antitrust laws and other legal matters, and we are ready to help you, too. In addition to advising  your business on antitrust law matters, we can also help protect your interests when another company participates in anti-competitive practices. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a member of the Attolles Law, S.C. team.