Two individuals and four of their corporate entities pleaded guilty to an antitrust conspiracy to fix the prices of DVDs and Blu-Rays sold on Amazon’s platform during the 2016-2019 time period.
According to the plea agreements, the defendants “engaged in discussions, transmitted across state lines both orally and electronically, with representatives of other sellers of DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs on the Amazon Marketplace. During these discussions, the defendant[s] reached agreements to suppress and eliminate competition for the sale of DVDs and Blue-Ray Discs . . . by fixing prices” paid by consumers throughout the United States. Further details about the operation of the conspiracy are not public.
The total affected commerce done by the six guilty-plea defendants is $2.875 million. The agreed-to fines imposed against the corporate defendants range from $68,000 to $234,000, some payable in installments. Sentencing for the individuals is forthcoming with the plea agreements specifying that the Department of Justice is free to argue for a period of incarceration to be served by each of the individuals at issue.
The action is pending in the District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. It serves as a reminder that the DOJ’s Antitrust Division will not excuse price-fixing by relatively small companies, even if the volume of affected commerce is also relatively small.
A basic compliance system can help avoid this type of legal crisis, which is likely not over. Typically, criminal pleas are followed by private class actions brought by consumers who will allege they overpaid for the products at issue, seeking trebled damages with joint and several liability.