Antitrust Policy And Guidelines
The Policy of the International Housewares Association (“IHA”) as a not for profit organization formed to promote, expand and foster the manufacturing , marketing and selling of housewares goods and products is to comply fully with all laws applicable to its programs and activities specifically including federal and state antitrust laws. IHA recognizes that the antitrust laws are intended to foster and protect competition, and as an association of competitors, IHA is particularly sensitive to antitrust restrictions and regulations.
One of the potential dangers which members of any trade association face is running afoul of the antitrust laws, which generally forbid any combination, contract or conspiracy that restrains trade.
The statutory penalties for violation of the antitrust laws are significant. Substantial fines may be imposed on an individual or company. In addition a company or individual injured by an antitrust violation can sue to recover threefold the damages which have been incurred.
It is therefore important for IHA, its officers, directors, staff and members to be vigilant in avoiding activities which could be construed as violating the antitrust laws.
Two concepts deserve special attention: "agreements" and activities that are "per se" illegal.
Neither a written contract nor a handshake is necessary for an illegal agreement. Tacit understandings, including responding to pressure, exerting pressure, or doing "what is expected," can be sufficient. An implied agreement may also be inferred from actions or the result of those actions.
Some activities are considered so inherently anticompetitive that they are per se illegal; that is, there is no legal defense, justification or excuse for the activity.
The following activities are among those that have been held to be per se illegal under the antitrust laws and must be avoided:
- Agreements to fix prices – regardless of whether prices are increased, decreased, stabilized or set according to an agreed formula or subject to uniform discounts or allowances;
- Agreements to restrict volume or production;
- Agreements to divide or allocate territories or customers;
- Agreements not to deal with a particular customer or supplier or group of customers or suppliers. Trade association members should, therefore, refrain from any discussion that could be interpreted as an agreement to take common action on prices or production or allocation of customers or markets. This is especially true in the setting of an informal gathering, either before or after a regular meeting.
GUIDELINESPursuant to its effort to comply with federal and antitrust laws, IHA adheres strictly to the following guidelines:
- IHA Board of Directors meetings are regularly scheduled and address only appropriate IHA business.
- Agendas are prepared, reviewed by counsel, and circulated to Board members in advance of the meetings.
- Counsel attends all Board of Directors meetings and participates in the preparation of minutes.
- Minutes of all Board Meetings are reviewed and approved at the following meeting of the Board.
There are other sensitive areas of IHA activity that are monitored by counsel on a continuing basis. For example, qualifications for membership have been tailored to the functions and purposes of IHA. They are not arbitrary, and a formal procedure has been adopted for handling membership applications.
All IHA programs or activities with possible antitrust implications are reviewed in advance by counsel.
The President/CEO of IHA should be informed promptly of any questions or concerns about whether conduct in connection with IHA programs and activities complies with the Policy and Guidelines.
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