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States Ramp Up Antitrust Efforts with Expanding Legal Teams

 |  May 29, 2024

In a concerted effort to challenge major corporations, state attorneys general across the United States are significantly expanding their antitrust teams, leveraging state laws to take on tech giants and other industry leaders. This trend is reshaping the landscape of antitrust enforcement and complicating defense strategies for businesses facing multiple lawsuits, according to a Bloomberg report.

Over the past five years, states like Florida and Tennessee have notably increased their antitrust legal teams. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) has aggressively pursued antitrust actions, including blocking the JetBlue Airways Corp. and Spirit Airlines merger, which resulted in a side settlement last spring. Additionally, Moody initiated an unprecedented antitrust investigation into the College Football Playoff Committee following the exclusion of undefeated Florida State University from the playoff.

Tennessee has quadrupled its antitrust attorneys from one to four, focusing on expanding its legal battles within college sports, particularly targeting the NCAA’s restrictive transfer rules for athletes. This strategic growth provides states with the resources to tackle both local and national cases that previously might have been unfeasible.

California, recognized for its leading antitrust team, is set to expand further by adding eight new hires this June, with plans for more in the future. Recently, California joined the Justice Department and approximately 30 states in a major lawsuit aimed at breaking up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

Related: Justice Department Sues to Break Up Live Nation Over Antitrust Violations

New Jersey is also stepping up its antitrust efforts under Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin (D), who announced the addition of two more attorneys to the state’s growing list of antitrust cases. New Jersey is currently scrutinizing pharmaceutical companies and payment processing firms, alongside leading local counsel in a lawsuit against Apple over iPhone pricing and participating in challenges against Amazon and Google.

The expansion of state antitrust enforcement is part of a broader trend observed over the last two decades. Gwendolyn J. Lindsay Cooley, Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Antitrust Task Force and Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General, noted that the cohort of assistant attorneys general involved in antitrust litigation has grown to roughly 270, with significant growth in the last five years.

“There is a zeitgeist, rightly or wrongly, that there’ve been failures in antitrust enforcement over the years and that is why we have so much concentration in all industries,” Cooley stated. “How to solve that is by hiring more bodies.”

California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) emphasized the urgency of antitrust enforcement for the economy, stating, “Antitrust enforcement is about protecting the free market and competition, which benefits both consumers and businesses.”

Source: News Bloomberg Law