Agencies to resist Equilon antitrust ruling

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 13 -- The US Federal Trade Commission authorized the staff of its general counsel's office to file a joint amicus brief with the Department of Justice asking the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court's finding that Texaco Inc. and Shell Oil Co.'s refining and marketing joint venture violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The federal departments are challenging a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that federal antitrust laws were violated when the two parent companies of Equilon Enterprises LLC directed it to equalize prices for both brands of gasoline after merging downstream operations and effectively terminating their prior competition.

The appeals court reversed a federal district court's finding that Equilon's decision to unify Texaco and Shell gasoline prices did not constitute horizontal price fixing. The FTC and Justice Department's joint brief argues that this reversal improperly extended an antitrust analysis to unified product pricing under the joint venture.

The FTC voted 3-0 to authorize the staff's filing of the joint brief, with Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras recused.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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