American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League: Surprise! The Supreme Court Upholds an Existing Antitrust Doctrine*

[Editors’ note: This is the second in our series, What Is the Most Important U.S. Supreme Court Case in Your Area of the Law? The first installment is here. In this post, Prof. Waxman focuses on an important Supreme Court case from the last term.]

Last spring in American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, 130 S. Ct. 2201 (2010), the United States Supreme Court reversed two lower court decisions and held that under Copperweld Corp. v. Independence Tube Corp., 467 U.S. 752 (1984), National Football League Properties (NFLP) was not a single entity but rather a collection of different entities with “independent centers of (business and economic) decision-making.” In Copperweld, the Court held that parties within a corporate entity or closely held affiliate (e.g. a wholly owned or controlled subsidiary) are to be treated as a single entity under the antitrust laws (despite the possible treatment as separate entities under corporation law) and therefore not subject to Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. By its decision in Copperweld, the Court in effect invited parties that might otherwise be treated as more than one entity under the Sherman Act to assert that they fall under the “single entity” category. Historically, despite efforts by many sports leagues to try various business arrangements to fit under the single entity category, courts have denied regularly these assertions based on the understanding that the arrangements were really vehicles controlled by multiple parties with different corporate and economic interests.

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Best of the Blogs: One Lump or Two?

November 2 is fast approaching, and the nation is awaiting the election results to see whether the Tea Party Movement will be revealed to be a force in American politics or an over-hyped media sensation.  This week’s “Best of the Blogs” feature provides everything a political junkie needs to learn more about the Tea Party Movement.

The obvious starting point might be Butch Cassidy’s (or Paul Newman’s) famous question, “Who are those guys?”  Amy Gardner at the Washington Post tries to answer that question here (hat tip to Steven Easley).  Despite her best efforts, a definitive picture of the Movement remains elusive:

[A] new Washington Post canvass of hundreds of local tea party groups reveals a different sort of organization, one that is not so much a movement as a disparate band of vaguely connected gatherings that do surprisingly little to engage in the political process.

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Tea Party Economics

Readers of this Blog know that I have a longstanding interest in the debate over the scope of the federal government’s power to regulate the economy under the Constitution.  I am also inclined to take the Tea Party Movement seriously as a political phenomenon rather than writing them off as a group of buffoons or extremists, unworthy of attention.  For that reason, I read with some interest Kate Zernike’s article in the New York Times  on October 2 that discussed the writers whose books are most often said comprise the intellectual foundation of the Tea Party movement. 

Taking pride of place among the “long-ago texts” highlighted in the article is Friedrich Hayek’s 1944 book The Road to Serfdom.  Hayek is often cited by the movement’s followers for his argument that a government that intervenes in the economy will inevitably intervene in every aspect of its citizen’s lives.  If one accepts this premise, it is easy to understand why members of the Tea Party Movement reacted with hostility to the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP), health care reform, and the bailout of the domestic auto industry.  For Tea Party followers, these separate policies – when viewed together — comprise a centrally planned economy reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s infamous Five Year Plans.

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