Pool Corp. Asks Court To Throw Antitrust Claims Into The Deep End
Pool Corp., the largest distributor of swimming pool supplies in the U.S., has filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to dismiss class action antitrust claims, arguing that the complaint fails to state a claim.
Plaintiffs allege that Pool Corp. entered into illegal agreements with three different manufacturers: Pentair Water Pool and Spa, Hayward Industries, and Zodiac Pool Systems. These agreements were allegedly designed to keep new distributors of swimming pool supplies from entering the market.
Pool Corp. is seeking to dismiss the claims of two different purported classes – direct purchasers (such as pool supply stores, golf courses and hotels) and indirect purchasers. The plaintiffs allege that Pool Corp. sought to suppress competition by buying out 13 competitors in five regions of the U.S. over the course of 14 years, and that new pool supply distributors closed at a rate of 40 percent because of Pool Corp.’s dominance.
The motion to dismiss is partially based on the fact that similar complaints of anticompetitive conduct were already investigated and resolved by the Federal Trade Commission in November 2011. Pool Corp. settled the investigation and agreed to FTC recommendations, including training staff members about antitrust laws.
FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch had argued the FTC investigation should have been closed due to a lack of evidence that the Pool Corp.’s actions actually harmed competitors or consumers.
In addition to relying on its settlement of the FTC investigation, Pool Corp. argues that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs fail to satisfy the elements of a claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. According to Pool Corp., the plaintiffs failed to adequately allege that the agreements with the manufacturers existed or that these agreements were made with the specific goal of restricting trade.
Pool Corp. also asked the Court to consider whether or not “nationwide” is a specific enough geographic market to support a monopolization claim.