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Fourth Circuit Holds Per-Se Rule Does Not Apply in Bid-Rigging Case

 |  January 25, 2024

By: Lisa Rumin and Gregory  Heltzer

A ruling by a three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has overturned the antitrust conviction of an executive, Brent Brewbaker, citing the district court’s misapplication of the per se standard to his alleged bid-rigging behavior.

Brewbaker, formerly associated with Contech, was found to have manipulated bids between Contech and its distributor, Pomona Pipe Products. Although both companies submitted competing bids for projects with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), and Contech collaborated with Pomona to slightly inflate Contech’s bid prices, the Fourth Circuit determined that this conduct did not inherently constitute illegality based on prior legal precedents. The court emphasized that the relationship between Contech and Pomona as a manufacturer and distributor, respectively, did not necessarily indicate anti-competitive behavior and might even foster competition.

In light of this manufacturer-distributor dynamic, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court should have evaluated the conduct under the rule of reason, considering the competitive implications of the parties’ agreement and actions…