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Episode description:

In this episode of Law, disrupted, John is joined by Michael D. Hausfeld. Michael is widely regarded as one of the leading plaintiffs antitrust lawyers in the world. This episode examines how he achieved a $2.67 billion settlement, as well as market-changing injunctive relief for Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) subscribers. 

The conversation begins with John and Michael discussing the background of the case, noting that BCBS is the single largest national provider of healthcare insurance with over a hundred million subscribers. Together, they discuss how Hausfeld LLP first came to be involved in the case more than 14 years ago, with Michael describing how a number of firms, including firms that compete with Hausfeld LLP, came to him with suspicions of anti-competitive behavior, asking if he could see whether or not there was an antitrust violation. 

They then discuss how BCBS structured its “Blue Network” so that each individual Blue Cross entity was considered an independent entity, yet none could compete for healthcare insurance in any state outside their designated territory. They explain how these ostensibly separate entities had essentially allocated markets between themselves and agreed not to compete with each other in violation of antitrust laws.

John and Michael cover the extensive discovery taken in the case, including the numerous depositions taken and the millions of documents produced. Michael describes the privilege disputes over hundreds of thousands of documents and the mostly favorable rulings the plaintiffs obtained before a Special Master who examined every document in dispute. 

John and Michael then discuss the battle of experts in the case and how, unlike a traditional cartel case where the experts need only determine a “but, for” price, this case required the experts to actually model the marketplace and identify which areas within a state a competitive entity would have entered first, how that might grow, etc. The experts then modeled or extrapolated those results for all 49 other states. Michael explains the judge’s novel process for resolving expert disputes in which he had two economists educate him off the record on the factors that each side’s economists focused on in making their determinations.

John and Michael then explore how the judge’s ruling on a motion to determine the applicable principle of law, later affirmed on appeal, set the stage for settlement negotiations to be productive. Michael explains how the scope of injunctive relief rather than arriving at the $2.67 billion settlement amount was the most difficult issue to negotiate. They examine how the injunctive relief obtained requires BCBS to restructure its Blue Network so that national BCBS accounts can obtain multiple bids at their choice. They also discuss how, because the national account market is the benchmark for the remaining portions of the market, that will affect competition for all insurance markets: national, regional and local.

They then discuss the new cases Michael is now working on, including one involving whether or not a branded manufacturer of HIV drugs unlawfully extended the life of its patents so that it could control pricing, another involving whether or not the major rail carriers agreed not to compete on imposing a fuel surcharge, and a mass tort climate change case on behalf of a number of global south countries against major carbon emitters.

Finally, John and Michael discuss Michael’s view that big tech, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Meta will be a focus of a great deal of antitrust attention for some time into the future.

Published: Nov 9 2022

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