Major League Baseball’s (MLB) century-long immunity from antitrust law may soon come to an end depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the pending Tri-City ValleyCats, Inc. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball. The petitioners, a pair of minor league baseball teams, are seeking to overrule years of precedent that allow the league to function as both a monopsonist (only buyer in the market) and monopolist (only seller in a market) given its unique control over the professional baseball market. While other professional sports leagues are subject to competition laws, MLB is uniquely positioned to have complete control over licensing, geographic exclusivity for teams, broadcasting, and salaries. Unsurprisingly, MLB’s unrestricted control of the multibillion-dollar professional baseball market has raised concerns about the continued exemptions.
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have agreed to a partnership, ending the rivalry that has divided golf for the past year. While golf fans may be rejoicing, it may be a premature celebration as the Justice Department has already been investigating the golf industry for anticompetitive behavior. The announcement of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf partnership has raised further concerns about monopolistic practices within the golf industry.
After months of near-total silence, Beyonce opened Black History Month with a bang when she finally blessed the Beehive with what they had been impatiently waiting for since the release of her seventh studio album: the announcement of the Renaissance World Tour. Her loyal fans have been anticipating this news since Renaissance was released too much acclaim at the end of July 2022. However, alongside anticipation, fans are battling a strong feeling of anxiety at the prospect of not being able to secure tickets for the coveted shows. And no wonder. Ticketmaster – the vendor through which tickets for the Renaissance tour are being sold – recently, and very publicly, bungled another highly awaited ticket sale.
With new antitrust bills aimed against Big Tech stuck in Congress, across the pond, European Union (EU) lawmakers are close to an agreement on a new and sweeping digital-competition law. This large piece of legislation, known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), is aimed at Big Tech companies and its stated purpose is to ensure fair competition and open digital markets. DMA, along with its sister act, the Digital Services Act (DSA), are flagship pieces of EU legislation that are currently in the final stages of EU lawmaking procedure.
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are dominating the headlines with record-breaking profits and dismissals of antitrust lawsuits; however, that may not last long with new antitrust bills gaining traction in Congress. In fact, when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 16 – 6 to advance a major antitrust bill on January 20, 2022, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the tech companies stock prices dipped. Currently, with bipartisan support, the bill is on a path to pass the Senate.
On June 29, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law that allows collegiate student-athletes to hire agents and sign endorsement deals effective as of July 1, 2021. This bill puts Illinois among a number of states which have begun to pass legislation allowing student-athletes to receive payment for the use of their name, image, and likeness (“NIL”). While these laws open opportunities for student-athletes, they also present several potential challenges to the NCAA, the governing body for collegiate athletics in the United States, and its member institutions barring any Congressional assistance.
With the recent antitrust lawsuit filed against Amazon and the new antitrust bills being debated in Congress, the online retail giant is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The behemoth of a company has entered numerous markets including apparel, technology, and even grocery. The size and scope of the company begs the question, is Amazon a monopoly? As the law stands right now, Amazon is decidedly not.
Antitrust laws regulate the concentration of economic power, the core of which was passed under the Sherman Act in 1890 and remain central to antitrust today. However, the laws are not applied today the way they were in their heyday of antitrust regulation – in the 1970s and 1980s, the Chicago School of Economics took hold over the courts’ antitrust jurisprudence, and since then the courts have been far more amiable to market concentration. The Chicago School’s economic analysis of law argued that big firms were not a threat to growth and prosperity and have successfully argued for a hands-off approach to monopolies and mergers outside of a narrow focus on consumer welfare.
The Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in the matter of National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, et al. on March 31st, 2021. After decades of controversy regarding what restrictions the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should be allowed to place on their member universities to compensate their collegiate athletes, many antitrust experts hope that the Supreme Court’s decision will give a final decision on if the NCAA’s current regulations are a violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and if they are, are they still justified by the NCAA’s goals.
The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020 (“CHIRA”) was signed into law on January 13, 2020, shifting not only how health insurance markets operate but lowering the bar for federal government agencies to bring successful actions against anticompetitive behavior. Prior to becoming law, health insurance companies retained robust antitrust exemptions under the McCarran-Ferguson Act (the “Act”). While it does not completely eliminate antitrust exemptions, the passage of CHIRA sent a strong signal that the federal government intended to promote competitive conduct in health insurance markets and limit the scope of these antitrust exemptions. While the upshot is that consumers may benefit from increased access and potentially lower cost, the health insurance industry must begin to adjust its conduct or face contentious litigation.