Most antitrust cases involve price fixing between manufacturers or distributors of specific products. Increasingly, these claims involve price fixing among manufacturers of high technology products, such as memory chips.
Price fixing violates both federal and state antitrust laws. The principal difference between these laws is that federal antitrust law only permits a claim to be brought by consumers or businesses who purchased the product directly from one of the companies engaged in the antitrust violation. Fourteen states, including California, also allow suits by so-called "indirect purchasers," i.e., consumers or businesses who purchased a product further down the distribution chain. For example, in a case involving price fixing of computer memory chips, only computer manufacturers could sue under federal law, while consumers who purchased computers at retail could sue under these state laws.
Other types of antitrust claims may involve market segmentation, where manufacturers or distributors agree to refrain from competing in one another's geographic territory, or to refrain from soliciting one another's customer base. Other claims may involve "tying," which typically occurs when a manufacturer uses a legal monopoly on a patented product to force its customers to purchase additional products or services.
Most private antitrust cases follow action by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission, which are the agencies charged with enforcing federal antitrust law.
California Electricity and Natural Gas Antitrust Litigation. From 2001 – 2009, Barry was lead or co-lead counsel in the multi-faceted antitrust litigation arising out of the California energy crisis.
In the Natural Gas Antitrust Cases, Barry obtained a
$1.25 billion settlement with El Paso Natural Gas Co. for residential and business consumers of natural gas, in a case alleging the manipulation of pipeline capacity to drive up wholesale prices at the California border. It remains one of the largest consumer class action settlements on record, and the only case to recognize an exception to the
Copperweld doctrine, which ordinarily bars antitrust claims based on intra-corporate conspiracies.
In the Price Indexing Cases, Barry obtained an additional $164 million in settlements for natural gas consumers from eight companies accused of engaging in “wash trades” and false reporting of trades to manipulate wholesale prices at the California border.
In the Wholesale Electricity Antitrust Cases, as co-lead counsel for electricity consumers, Barry recovered over $1 billion from The Williams Companies, Duke Energy, and Reliant Energy in settlement of claims that they conspired to manipulate California’s wholesale electricity markets.