Hub-and-Spoke Conspiracies: Can Big Data and Pricing Algorithms Form the Rim?

SMU Science and Technology Law Review
August 10, 2023

Dallas Partner Brad Weber authored an article in the SMU Science and Technology Law Review, with the foreword of the issue authored by Dallas’ Paul Rogers. Weber’s article discusses the history, structure and characteristics of hub-and-spoke conspiracies. As explained by Weber, a “hub-and-spoke conspiracy is a metaphor used to describe an antitrust cartel that includes a firm at one level of a supply chain — such as a buyer or supplier — who acts like the ‘hub’ of a wheel. Vertical agreements up or down the supply chain act as the ‘spokes,’ and a horizontal agreement among the spokes acts as the ’rim’ of the wheel. Courts have considered hub-and-spoke conspiracies for more than 80 years, and there is large body of case law that pertains to the evidence that is necessary for proving this type of antitrust conspiracy.” Weber’s article also includes observations about agreements among competitors to exchange confidential price information, which itself can result in antitrust violations under certain circumstances, and comments on a new wave of antitrust lawsuits that allege hub-and-spoke conspiracies based on competitors’ mutual use of big data and algorithms to set prices.

Paul Rogers’ article, titled “A Tipping Point for Antitrust Law,” argues that with the many antitrust challenges to Big Tech and the growing influence of the aggressive “New Brandeis” theory of antitrust law, we may be witnessing a very real crossroads in antitrust history as enforcement agencies and private plaintiffs redouble their efforts to curtail abuses of dominant market power.

Read Weber’s full article in the SMU Science and Technology Law Review and read Rogers’ foreword to the issue.

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