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Antitrust attorneys are legal professionals who specialize in the body of law designed to protect trade and commerce from corporate monopolies, price-fixing, and unfair restrictions. In general, antitrust lawyers work on cases involving everything from corporate mergers and acquisitions to free trade agreements, price-fixing lawsuits, and unfair competition issues. While they are called antitrust attorneys in the United States, these lawyers are often referred to as competition lawyers in Europe, Australia, South Africa, and other countries.
Most antitrust lawyers work for law firms that represent corporate clients in various transactions. Sometimes, an antitrust attorney is hired in-house by large corporations that have ongoing antitrust issues. Government agencies also frequently employ antitrust attorneys. For example, these attorneys may work for the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission in the United States, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, or the Office of Fair Trading in the United Kingdom.
Antitrust attorneys are typically required to develop expertise in complex antitrust and competition laws. In the United States, for example, an antitrust lawyer must have expertise with federal antitrust laws, namely the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act, as well as various state antitrust laws. Competition lawyers in the European Union usually need to be familiar with the Treaty of Rome, and Australian lawyers are typically experts in the Trade Practices Act. Some developing countries have also adopted various competition laws, such as The Competition Act of 1998 in South Africa.
One key area that an antitrust attorney often specializes in is that of mergers and acquisitions. Antitrust laws, particularly those adopted in the United States, can prohibit mergers or acquisitions that impinge on the competitive process in a particular industry. As a result, when two companies are contemplating a merger or an acquisition, the deal may be subject to review by an antitrust commission before it can be completed. This review process can be rigorous and complicated. Antitrust attorneys are typically hired to help the merging companies navigate the process.
An antitrust lawyer may also represent clients in court on an antitrust suit. For example, if a government believes a company under its jurisdiction has violated its antitrust laws, they can bring the company to court. If found guilty, the company may be subject to various civil and criminal penalties, such as large fines or even prison time for company officers and directors. Antitrust attorneys work on both sides of these litigations – either representing the government agency or defending the company.
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