Second Circuit Agrees With AAI Amicus That a Cartel Cannot Immunize Its Actions by Working Through a Single Entity

On March 8, the Second Circuit released its opinion in Relevent Sports, LLC v. United States Soccer Federation, Inc, et al. The decision vacated a district court decision to dismiss Relevent Sports’ claim that a 2018 policy enacted by FIFA and its national members violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Relevent Sports alleged that the policy was an illegal market allocation because it prevented promoters like Relevent from hosting league games outside a team’s home geography.

The Second Circuit’s analysis of the sufficiency of a Section 1 claim reflects the framework AAI advocated in its amicus brief to the court. The opinion affirms that, as AAI argued, an allegation that separate economic actors are restrained from pursuing individual economic interests is sufficient to allege an “agreement” under Section 1. The Second Circuit further agreed that a binding association policy reflecting that competitive restraint is direct evidence of an agreement under Section 1, and there is no need to allege “an agreement to agree” or other circumstantial evidence of agreement.

As AAI emphasized in its amicus, the Second Circuit’s decision is vitally important. The district court standard would have essentially immunized the most durable and harmful type of cartel behavior, allowing cartel members to escape antitrust scrutiny simply by ceding decision making authority on price or output to a single entity, like a trade association.

Read the full amicus brief here.