Price gouging enforcement and litigation is front and center for company counsel and business managers nationwide. Our weekly round up highlights some of the most relevant news and information to our clients and friends.

Illinois Businessman Charged with Price Gouging Under the Defense Production Act

On October 8, 2020, the U.S. attorney’s office for Chicago announced that an Illinois businessman was charged with price gouging protective masks during the height of the pandemic, in violation of the Defense Production Act. The businessman is accused of accumulating about 80,000 masks in March and April for approximately $5 each. The businessman allegedly then sold nearly 40,000 masks to consumers for as high as $19.95 apiece. In a written statement, U.S. Attorney John Lausch stated “[a]massing and reselling personal protective equipment at large markups during a global health crisis is not only greedy, it’s illegal under the Defense Production Act.” In response to the accusations, the businessman’s attorney stated that it is unfortunate that the businessman was charged “with something that he absolutely did not do.”

Grocer President and CEO Has Nothing But Praise for Oklahoma Grocers

President and CEO of the Oklahoma Grocers Association, Rob Edgmon, stated in a recent interview that Oklahoma grocers have “done everything they can” during the pandemic. Edgmon stated that if grocers “were charged $1 today and $2 tomorrow, they would have to put an acceptable markup on that for the new cost of goods. And a lot of times – the consumer does not understand this – but there was no price gouging going on. I know several that were accused of it, but I don’t know of any that were convicted of price gouging in Oklahoma.” According to the interviewer, Edgmon has only “praise for the grocers in Oklahoma.”

Iowa Attorney General Discusses Price Gouging Response Following Derecho

In a Law360 article, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller discussed the state’s response to the recent derecho that swept across Iowa. According to Attorney General Miller, “COVID-19 prepared us for the derecho in many respects. As did many Attorney General offices, we received a huge increase in price gouging complaints and other calls from consumers during the first three months of the pandemic.” Iowa’s Consumer Protection Division was therefore able to react more quickly than usual by streamlining the process. In response to the derecho, Attorney General Miller stated that his office “reached out to sellers immediately” and “were able to get retailers and sellers to take down internet sale postings that appeared to be price-gouging, to reduce prices and even to remove questionable products from their shelves, addressing the complaints before they increased.” Attorney General Miller further stated that given Iowa’s price gouging law was adopted in 1993, “[n]ow is a great time . . . to reexamine our consumer protection laws to ensure they are serving constituents. For example, we’ve asked legislators for years to strengthen laws to address fraud by home-improvement contractors. As more people repair damage from storms, it may be time to make another push.”

Alabama Extends Price Gouging Law as Hurricane Approaches

On October 6, 2020, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency as Hurricane Delta approaches the state. According to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Alabama’s price gouging law is “still in effect for the ongoing States of Emergency from COVID-19 and Hurricane Sally.” Attorney General Marshall reminded Alabama residents that “[a]s our Gulf Coast struggles to recover from Hurricane Sally, now residents and businesses are bracing themselves for the approach of yet another dangerous storm. They should remain on guard for price gouging and home repair fraud in the advance and aftermath of Hurricane Delta.” The Attorney General’s Office has received 52 complaints related to allegations of price gouging and fraud from Hurricane Sally.

Photo of Christopher E. Ondeck Christopher E. Ondeck

Chris Ondeck is co-chair of the Firm’s nationwide Antitrust Group. He represents clients in civil and criminal antitrust litigation, defending mergers and acquisitions before the U.S. antitrust agencies, defending companies involved in government investigations, and providing antitrust counseling.

Chris has handled antitrust matters…

Chris Ondeck is co-chair of the Firm’s nationwide Antitrust Group. He represents clients in civil and criminal antitrust litigation, defending mergers and acquisitions before the U.S. antitrust agencies, defending companies involved in government investigations, and providing antitrust counseling.

Chris has handled antitrust matters for clients in a number of industries, including advertising, aerospace, alcoholic beverages, appliances, building materials, consumer products, defense, franchise, medical devices, metals, mining, natural resources, oil and gas, packaging, pharmaceuticals, software and telecommunications. He also has developed substantial experience advising clients regarding the application of the antitrust laws to the pharmaceutical industry, the agriculture industry, trade associations and the energy industry.

Photo of John R. Ingrassia John R. Ingrassia

John is a partner at the Firm, advising on the full range of foreign investment and antitrust matters across industries, including chemicals, pharmaceutical, medical devices, telecommunications, financial services consumer goods and health care. He is the first call clients make in matters relating…

John is a partner at the Firm, advising on the full range of foreign investment and antitrust matters across industries, including chemicals, pharmaceutical, medical devices, telecommunications, financial services consumer goods and health care. He is the first call clients make in matters relating to competition and antitrust, CFIUS or foreign investment issues.

For more than 25 years, John has counselled businesses facing the most challenging antitrust issues and helped them stay out of the crosshairs — whether its distribution, pricing, channel management, mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, or price gouging compliance.

John’s practice focuses on the analysis and resolution of CFIUS and antitrust issues related to mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures, and the analysis and assessment of pre-merger CFIUS and HSR notification requirements. He advises clients on issues related to CFIUS national security reviews, and on CFIUS submissions when non-U.S. buyers seek to acquire U.S. businesses that have national security sensitivities.  He also regularly advises clients on international antitrust issues arising in proposed acquisitions and joint ventures, including reportability under the EC Merger Regulation and numerous other foreign merger control regimes.

His knowledge, reputation and extensive experience with the legal, practical, and technical requirements of merger clearance make him a recognized authority on Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust merger review. John is regularly invited to participate in Federal Trade Commission and bar association meetings and takes on the issues of the day.

Photo of Kelly Landers Hawthorne Kelly Landers Hawthorne

Kelly Landers Hawthorne is an associate in the Litigation Department.

While at Columbia, she served as an articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts and was involved with the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic.  She also worked as…

Kelly Landers Hawthorne is an associate in the Litigation Department.

While at Columbia, she served as an articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts and was involved with the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic.  She also worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Sandra Townes of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Kelly is a Teach For America alumnus and taught middle school special education and math in Washington, D.C. prior to law school.