Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law

Competition: Fall 2015, Vol 24, No. 2

PLEADING AN ANTITRUST CONSPIRACY IN A POST-TWOMBLY WORLD

By Joshua Stokes and Jordan Ludwig1

I. INTRODUCTION

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly is one of the most important cases to ever be decided interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.2 At its core, Twombly clarified what Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) means when it asks for a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" and how a complaint survives a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted brought under Rule 12(b)(6). The Court’s new interpretation of these rules—described in detail below—abrogated its prior decision in Conley v. Gibson,3 which merely required the plaintiff to provide fair notice of the claim to the defendant.

Twombly’s significance is undeniable. According to Westlaw, as of July 31, 2015, it has been cited in a breathtaking 118,866 judicial opinions. But despite its near universal relevance, Twombly is of special import in antitrust cases—and, more specifically, conspiracy cases under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.4Twombly itself was a Section 1 conspiracy case alleging an agreement between telephone companies to thwart competition by preventing upstart companies from expanding in the market and by agreeing not to compete with one another.5 The Court’s holding in Twombly was grounded largely in antitrust principles—so much so that it led some lower courts to initially conclude that the rule in Twombly applied only in conspiracy cases.6 The Supreme Court clarified Twombly’s broader application two years later in Ashcroft v. Iqbal—notably, over the dissent of Justice Souter, Twombly’s author.7

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