WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2011 -- The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on a DC Circuit decision affirming summary judgment for Firm client ExxonMobil Corporation in a federal antitrust case. The case, brought by nearly two dozen towns and cities, alleged that ExxonMobil -- and other major energy companies -- conspired to fix the price of natural gas in the United States beginning in 1999 in violation of Sherman Act Section 1.
The Court’s decision thus leaves intact a complete defense win for ExxonMobil. Previously, the US District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment in favor of the energy companies, finding insufficient evidence of any price-fixing conspiracy and excluding the testimony of plaintiff’s expert economist. The district court opinion is available here.
The court noted the evidence established each defendant’s prices were “often lower than the nationwide average wellhead prices,” suggesting “that the defendants were pricing at competitive levels” and that no conspiracy occurred. The court found the opinion of the plaintiffs’ liability expert regarding the purported conspiracy to be “wholly unsupported and speculative” and entitled to “no weight.”
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s action, holding that despite plaintiffs’ attempt to support their allegations by “making conclusory assertions, including unsupported assertions by their expert, Dr. Wilson,” the evidence “falls far short of creating a genuine issue of material fact as to whether appellees conspired to fix prices.” The court went on to say that they “seriously doubt[ed] the record is sufficient to establish parallel conduct by appellees . . . [b]ut even assuming parallelism . . . appellants’ circumstantial evidence does not support a reasonable inference that appellees conspired to raise prices.” The Circuit Court opinion is available here.
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