Law Firm Represents Department Store Chain in Largest Antitrust Suit
Against Sinclair, Tribune Company
CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., one of the country’s best-known department
store companies, is the latest, and by far the largest, plaintiff to
file suit against major U.S. media conglomerates, alleging a massive
conspiracy to drive up the price of local television advertising.
National plaintiffs’ law firm, DiCello Levitt & Casey, filed the class
action lawsuit today on Bon-Ton’s behalf in federal court in the
Northern District of Illinois.
The suit, which names Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Media Company
and several other “John Doe” defendant co-conspirators, alleges that the
companies violated federal antitrust laws by colluding to fix the rates
TV stations charge for advertising airtime. Bon-Ton’s complaint is the
newest in a series of suits brought against the media industry giants
and is notable given the department store chain’s size relative to
previous plaintiffs, most of whom are small regional businesses.
The suit alleges that Sinclair and Tribune, who are both owners of
dozens of local television stations, while ostensibly competitors in the
market for local spot television advertising, have instead conspired to
reduce or eliminate competition by sharing information and coordinating
pricing in various Designated Market Areas (DMAs), resulting in
artificially inflated prices for local spot advertising in violation of
federal antitrust laws.
“Through their price-fixing scheme, Tribune, Sinclair, and their
co-conspirators have monopolized the airwaves and extorted millions of
dollars from businesses like Bon-Ton,” said Adam J. Levitt, co-counsel
for Bon-Ton and a founding partner of DiCello Levitt & Casey. “This
lawsuit aims to hold these powerful companies accountable and restore
free and fair competition.”
Bon-Ton’s complaint alleges that station owners have shared their
pricing information and coordinated efforts to stabilize or inflate spot
prices, including setting a “floor” for all spot pricing. It also claims
that, within a DMA, no station owner that is party to the conspiracy was
permitted to reduce spot prices below a certain cost-per-point. By
setting such a floor, but then still negotiating with individual
advertisers, stations were able to maintain the façade of a competitive
market when in reality they had fixed prices.
Despite the significant number of local broadcast stations operated
across 210 different DMAs, ownership is highly concentrated in the hands
of a small number of media companies. In recent years, mergers between
television station owners have increased market concentration and
thereby decreased competition in many DMAs. Further, the Federal
Communications Commission has recently loosened certain restrictions on
television station ownership and opened the door to larger mergers,
including the ill-fated $4 billion merger of Sinclair and Tribune.
Notably, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division is actively
investigating the conduct of both companies after its recent review of
their now-defunct merger.
“The consolidation of the television industry has enabled a pattern of
illegal, anti-competitive conduct, which we are confident this lawsuit
will bring to light,” said John E. Tangren, co-counsel for Plaintiff and
partner at DiCello Levitt & Casey.
DiCello Levitt and Casey has teamed with another renowned antitrust
class action firm, Labaton Sucharow LLP, on this matter – The Bon-Ton
Stores Inc. v. Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., et. al., Civil Action
No. 1:18-cv-06758, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District
“Given our two firms’ track record of success representing plaintiffs in
antitrust class actions and our considerable experience leading complex
MDLs across the United States, we believe we are well-positioned to help
manage this national effort to stop blatant collusion in the TV ad
buying chain,” Levitt said.
About DiCello Levitt & Casey
DiCello Levitt & Casey is a different kind of law firm – one that
combines excellence in commercial litigation, class action litigation,
mass tort litigation, catastrophic injury litigation, labor and
employment litigation, and civil rights litigation. Practicing
nationwide – and internationally – from offices in Chicago and
Cleveland, we are an aggressive, attentive, and creative plaintiffs’
firm whose work speaks for itself – billions of dollars in recoveries in
some of the highest-profile matters in U.S. history. Revered by clients
and respected by defense counsel, our team gets results.
DiCello Levitt & Casey
Adam Levitt, 312-214-7900