AUSTIN – Two Texas bills seeking to expand the authority of the attorney general to pursue antitrust actions have passed the House and were heard by the Senate State Affairs Committee yesterday morning.

HB 5214 relates to actions brought by the attorney general on behalf of persons under the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act of 1983, while HB 5232 relates to the civil penalties the act imposes.

Currently, the AG can bring an antitrust action on behalf of the state. HB 5214 would amend the act to allow the AG to sue on behalf of indirect purchasers (consumers) to recover damages, including treble damages.

Since 1983, the act has set the amount of the civil fine at $1 million for a corporate violator and $100,000 for any other entity or individual. HB 5232 raises those amounts to $300,000 for an individual, and $3 million to $30 million for businesses.

During the Senate committee hearing, Roger Alford, a law professor at Notre Dame, testified in support of the bills, saying that they were much needed updates and that the current penalty of $1 million is not a sufficient deterrent.

Alford said the $1 million penalty is what Google makes in an hour.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is currently pursuing an antitrust action against Google and has brought in outside counsel to handle the case.

The Texas Civil Justice League believes the bills give the attorney general a great deal more leverage than current law.

“Given the complexity of antitrust litigation, the intensive (and expensive) discovery involved, and the potentially enormous financial stakes, we can expect that outside counsel will become an important feature of litigation under the new law,” wrote George Christian, senior counsel for TCJL.

“We might also anticipate that third-party litigation funders could become involved as well, perhaps lured by the attractive prospect of treble damages (which, by the way, includes trebling of attorney’s fees). If any or all of that occurs, it is hard to imagine any business entity standing up to it for very long. Quite the whip hand, indeed.”


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