Max Huffman, Nov 16, 2011
In September 2011, in Minn-Chem Inc. v. Agrium Inc., the Seventh Circuit concluded that allegations of price-fixing in foreign commerce, with effects on domestic U.S. commerce due to the integrated worldwide market for the agricultural fertilizer component potash, were insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss under the Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal. The complaint’s failing was the lack of plausible allegations of a direct effect of overseas price-fixing on domestic or import markets.
Minn-Chem v. Agrium illustrates a squaring of the burdens facing private antitrust plaintiffs seeking extraterritorial application of the law. The substantive standard under the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act was difficult to meet prior to Twombly and Iqbal. Combining it with a pleading standard created to protect against false positive errors from private antitrust enforcement substantially increases the challenge to private plaintiffs.