What are the Antitrust Laws?

The Sherman Act, enacted by Congress in 1890, remains the basis for most of our nation’s antitrust laws. It prohibits all agreements and conspiracies in restraint of trade and commerce. These prohibited restraints include price fixing, market allocation, boycotts, bid rigging and tying agreements. The Sherman Act also prohibits monopolizing or attempts to monopolize any line of commerce. The United States Department of Justice has criminal enforcement authority to prosecute these violations.  

The Clayton Act prohibits mergers and certain other practices that may “substantially reduce” competition or create a monopoly. Amendments to the Clayton Act made in 1976 granted the States’ Attorneys General the power to represent state residents in federal antitrust lawsuits and seek to recover treble damages for violations of federal antitrust laws, including the Sherman Act.  

Missouri’s own state laws, Chapter 416 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, are similar to the federal Sherman Act in prohibiting agreements that restrain competition and attempts to monopolize. Missouri’s Antitrust Law is construed “in harmony” with federal law. State law also authorizes the Attorney General to conduct confidential investigations into suspected antitrust violations and to bring actions on behalf of both state and certain public entities as well as on the behalf of all state residents. Some conduct that violates antitrust laws may also violate Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act.

Under Missouri's antitrust law, an individual may go to jail or be fined up to $50,000 in a criminal prosecution. Alternatively, the Attorney General may pursue civil judgments for treble damages.