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Focusing on Price-Fixing

By Jeanne Deprincen | Oct. 2, 2006
News

Law Office Management

Oct. 2, 2006

Focusing on Price-Fixing

The documentary that was born of a legal settlement. By Chuleenan Svetvilas

By Chuleenan Svetvilas
      Edited By Martin Lasden
     
      A documentary on antitrust issues is an unusual result of a legal settlement. But it seems fitting that the nearly $500,000 budget for Fair Fight in the Marketplace came from a cy pres fund. In 2002 six vitamin manufacturers accused of price-fixing agreed to several multistate settlements totaling $305 million, of which $38 million went to California consumers and $42 million to California businesses.
      The $38 million Vitamin Cases Consumer Settlement Fund was authorized to provide grants to nonprofit organizations and public agencies to improve "the health and nutrition of California consumers and to promote vigorous competition to benefit California consumers." Most of the money has gone to health and nutrition outreach programs, education (including the documentary), research, and food delivery.
      "The goal of the documentary is to raise people's awareness of antitrust issues--why we have these laws and the value of these laws," says Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute in Washington, D.C., which received the funding to produce the documentary, as well as a classroom version and related curriculum. Foer commissioned Filmmakers Collaborative in San Francisco to create the film and Street Law in Washington, D.C., to produce the teacher training materials.
      Fair Fight in the Marketplace gives a brief overview of antitrust history and then provides three case studies of companies and the allegations against them: Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), accused of price-fixing; Mylan Pharmaceuticals, charged with conspiring to monopolize the generic drug market; and Microsoft, cited for illegally maintaining a monopoly. Narrated by NPR commentator Mara Liasson, the documentary includes archival footage, cartoons, and interviews with legal and economic experts and business journalists, as well as people whose lives were directly affected by those companies' actions.
      In the film, we hear from Paul Bahan, a California egg farmer who claims he was forced to pay more for the chicken-feed additive lysine because of ADM's price-fixing. This substantially increased his business costs, which he then passed on to consumers by raising prices. We also hear from Judy Sobzinski, who says her anti-anxiety medication costs went up exponentially when Mylan Pharmaceuticals cornered the market on one of her drug's raw ingredients and then raised its price.
      As of this writing, Filmmakers Collaborative is working on getting the documentary broadcast on public television. For more information, visit www.fairfightfilm.org.
     
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Jeanne Deprincen

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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