As part of my mission to raise awareness of antitrust’s impact on American business, I thought I’d take a minute to list some of the more significant legal penalties imposed in recent years. They are not chump change:
- Earlier this year, a jury awarded damages of $400 million against Dow Chemical in a price-fixing case. Pursuant to statute, the judge trebled the damages. Dow is appealing the resulting $1.2 billion judgment.
- In March, the European Union fined Microsoft $732 million for omitting from Windows a screen that offers users a choice of browsers.
- Over the past several months, the Department of Justice and state attorneys general have imposed penalties on five publishers totaling $170 million (see also here and here) to settle charges of price-fixing in the e-book market.
- A Taiwanese company, AU Optronics, was recently fined $500 million after losing at trial to the Department of Justice, which can’t help bragging: “The $500 million fine matches the largest fine imposed against a company for violating the U.S. antitrust laws.”
- Back in 2009, Intel was hit with a $1.45 billion fine by the European union for “anticompetitive practices.”
- Oh yes, let’s not forget the $1.1 billion fine levied against Microsoft by the EU in 2008, and upheld on appeal in 2012, for failing to provide competitors with computer programming codes to interface with Microsoft’s server software.
I could go on, but you get the point. Of course, the real issue is whether such penalties are justified as punishments for actual wrongdoing by the businesses affected. I say no (see here, here and here, for example), but even those who disagree cannot deny the magnitude of the threat.