The antitrust laws prohibit any agreement between two or more companies that results in an unreasonable restraint of trade. There is no safe harbor under the antitrust laws for trade association activities. Dealings among competitors that violate the federal antitrust laws still violate the law if done through trade associations. Violating these laws is a felony that can result in imprisonment for up to 10 years, in addition to civil penalties and reputational damage.
Under the antitrust laws, we are not allowed to discuss the following topics:
- strategic plans.
- current or future pricing and discounts.
- bid amounts and terms.
- customers and key contract or sale terms.
- salaries and wages, or limitations on hiring a competitor's employees.
- planned geographic growth.
- limits on sales levels or sales of certain products to certain regions.
- output or capacity levels.
- business expansion or contraction plans.
In addition, we may not:
- agree to, or discuss, refusing to do business with any competitor, customer, or company in the supply chain.
- agree to, or discuss, any limitations on your company's activities or independent decision-making, such as changing the way you adjust pricing or make output decisions.
- exchange non-public, competitively sensitive information with competitors.
Any type of joint effort with trade association members should be first vetted by counsel, including data exchanges, joint ventures, or lobbying efforts. We also want to avoid creating the appearance of illegal collusion, or that inappropriate communications or information exchanges are taking place. Any meeting with a competitor could later be interpreted as evidence of an illegal information exchange or of cartel activity. As much as possible, we must avoid side meetings and conversations with competitors during this meeting.