Apr 01, 2013
On March 14, 2013, a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York returned a verdict in In re Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation, No. 1:06-md-1738 (E.D.N.Y.), finding that two Chinese companies had unlawfully fixed prices and controlled the supply of vitamin C exports from China to the United States. The jury rejected the companies’ defense that their actions were compelled by the Chinese government. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $54.1 million, which was trebled by the court to $162.3 million.
The case represents the first time that a Chinese company has been found liable for violating United States antitrust laws. It is equally noteworthy for the Chinese government’s unprecedented appearance in the case in support of the companies’ claim of immunity under the foreign sovereign compulsion doctrine. The verdict sends a strong signal to non-U.S. manufacturers that the application of foreign laws may not be enough to avoid antitrust liability in U.S. courts. Given China’s growing role in global commerce and the economic realities that Chinese companies face domestically, the jury’s verdict in this case is only the first word on whether U.S. courts will accept a Chinese company’s argument that “the government made me do it.”