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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  January 31, 2024

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.


Yale, Duke and Columbia Among Elite Schools to Settle in Price-Fixing Case.  For almost a quarter of a century, a coterie of the nation’s most elite universities had a legal shield: They would be exempt from federal antitrust laws when they shared formulas to measure prospective students’ financial needs. But the provision included a crucial requirement: that the cooperating universities’ admissions processes be “need-blind,” meaning they could not factor in whether a prospective student was wealthy enough to pay. A court filing revealed that five of those universities — Brown, Columbia, Duke, Emory and Yale — have collectively agreed to pay $104.5 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them of, in fact, weighing financial ability when they deliberated over the fates of some applicants.


Group of engineering firms to settle ‘no poach’ antitrust claims.  A group of engineering services firms have reached settlements in a federal lawsuit accusing them and others of agreeing not to hire one another’s employees and artificially suppressing wages in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers leading the prospective class-action revealed the proposed settlements in a filing in Connecticut, where more than 20 similar lawsuits were consolidated in 2022. Attorneys for the engineer plaintiffs said Cyient, which has corporate offices in East Hartford, Connecticut, had agreed to pay $7.4 million to settle allegations. Three other companies agreed to settle claims in principle: QuEST Global Services, also based in Connecticut; and Florida-based firms Parametric Solutions and Agilis.


US Steel calibrates depth of trustbuster discounts.  Trustbusters are living rent-free inside the heads of deal-making chief executives. United States Steel boss David Burritt and his Cleveland-Cliffs counterpart, Lourenco Goncalves, are two of them, evidenced by documents related to their negotiations, which eventually led Burnitt to opt for a $14 billion sale to Nippon Steel instead. It’s a revealing portal into just how much competition authorities are altering merger decisions. Domestic steelmaking rival Cleveland-Cliffs fought hard in the bidding war for U.S. Steel, which wrapped up in December. From the moment Goncalves arrived on the scene in late July, his company was among the most aggressive suitors, lifting its original $35-per-share offer to $54.


Cisco battles reseller’s antitrust lawsuit over network equipment.  Internet equipment giant Cisco Systems is squaring off in a Texas trial against an independent reseller that claims Cisco unlawfully impeded competition for key network components by questioning the credibility of its sales. Dexon Computer Inc sued Cisco in Texarkana, Texas, federal court in 2022, alleging some of the San Jose-based company’s business practices violate U.S. antitrust law. Cisco has denied any wrongdoing and said it acted lawfully to protect its intellectual property in discouraging customers from purchasing equipment from independent distributors. Dexon alleged Cisco was “threatening and coercing customers into buying overpriced networking equipment.”


Edited by Gary J. Malone