Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 11, 2012

CT Supreme Court Holds Alleged Bribery Leading to End of Development Agreement is not an Antitrust Violation

Defendant City of Bridgeport requested proposals for development of a waterfront site.  Plaintiff Bridegport Renaissance Center’s proposal was selected by the city and a development agreement was signed.  Plaintiff alleges that city officials began demanding bribes from contractors seeking to work with the city.  Plaintiff purportedly refused to participate in the bribery scheme and, thus, plaintiff alleges that city officials decided to force plaintiff to break its contract.  After delays, demands, and conditions imposed by the city, the plaintiff could not perform under the contract and the contract was terminated by the city. 

The plaintiff filed this action, alleging illegal conspiracy and violations of the antitrust acts.  Plaintiff’s amended complaint specifically alleges that the conduct of the city officials restricted trade in the entire market.  Defendant city argues that plaintiff has failed to present any evidence that city officials purported behavior had an adverse effect on competition in the relevant market.  The lower courts agreed with the defendants and dismissed the complaint.  Plaintiff now appeals to the Connecticut Supreme Court. 

In this appeal, the plaintiffs argue that city officials controlled the market by alienating competitors through their bribery scheme.  Plaintiff also argues that the bidding projects were controlled by bribery and, thus, stifled competition for each project.  The supreme court finds, however, that plaintiff has failed to introduce specific evidence of an effect on competition as a whole.  Instead, finds the court, the plaintiff only explains how they were individually injured, not injury to competition in the relevant market.  In exploring federal court cases related to the subject, the court finds “that commercial bribery does not constitute a restraint of trade.”  Thus, holds the court, the plaintiff’s allegations against the defendant has failed to state a valid antitrust claim.  

Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 32 A.3d 296 (Conn. 12/13/2011) 

This opinion can be accessed at: http://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROcr/CR303/303CR115.pdf


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