On March 16, 2022, a federal grand jury in Knoxville, Tennessee, returned an indictment charging two individuals and four companies with participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs sold on the Amazon Marketplace. On February 13, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the Defendants, Bruce Fish along with BDF Enterprises, Inc., a corporate entity owned by Fish, admitted to participating in the conspiracy. Victor Btesh and three corporate entities of which Btesh is the sole or majority owner, pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy on February 9.
According to the DOJ and the plea agreements, Btesh and Fish, along with their four corporate entities, agreed with co-conspirators to raise and maintain the prices of DVDs and Blu-Rays sold on Amazon marketplace, resulting in those products being sold at “collusive and noncompetitive prices,” in violation of the Sherman Act.
Congress passed the first antitrust law, the Sherman Act, in 1890 as a “comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.” The Sherman Act outlaws “every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade,” and any “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.”
A criminal violation of the Sherman Act carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $1 million criminal fine for individuals, and a $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
In a press release, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division emphasized the division’s commitment to “deterring, detecting, and prosecuting” anticompetitive conduct across markets, stating “as e-commerce has become a cornerstone of the economy, it is vital to protect fair and open competition in online marketplaces. Conspiring to fix prices, wherever that conduct may occur, harms competition.”
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white-collar criminal and federal investigations. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.