In re American Express Anti-Steering Rules Antitrust Litigation, No. 20-1766 (2d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, commercial merchants seeking monetary and injunctive relief under both federal and California antitrust laws against American Express, filed suit alleging that American Express's anti-steering rules caused merchant fees to rise across the market. The district court considered the four "efficient enforcer" factors and concluded that plaintiffs lacked antitrust standing, dismissing the claims.
The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that the efficient-enforcer factors structure a proximate cause analysis according to which there must be a sufficiently close relationship between the alleged injury and the alleged antitrust violation to establish antitrust standing. In cases of economic harm, the court explained that proximate cause is demarcated by the "first step" rule, which limits liability to parties injured at the first step of the causal chain of the defendants' actions. Here, American Express restrained trade to raise its own prices and only later did its competitors follow suit. The court stated that plaintiffs were harmed at that later step, and thus failed the first-step test. After considering all four factors, the court concluded that—taking the allegations of the complaint as true—plaintiffs are not efficient enforcers of the antitrust laws and therefore lack antitrust standing.