Eliot G. Disner is a partner in Van Etten Suzumoto & Becket LLP, in Santa Monica, California, practicing commercial litigation (including antitrust cases). Mr. Disner serves on the American Arbitration Association’s panel of neutrals. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although the law has been settled for some time that antitrust claims may be arbitrated, some still think that such claims are either unsuited or may not qualify for arbitration at all. But a recent decision by the 5th Circuit, in its recognition of the arbitrator’s expertise in antitrust matters, should erase this notion.
This case concerned a competitive relationship that went awry—twice! The plaintiff, American Central Eastern Texas Co., was primarily in the business of gathering natural gas liquids extracted by producers, then shipping them to processing plants nearby. However, through a variety of long-term contracts, Duke Energy Fuels, the successor to defendant Union Pacific Resources Group, essentially tied up all of these processing plants, thereby preventing American Central from either acquiring processing services or locating an entity that would process its gas supplies at competitive prices.