Whole Foods Market has agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in an antitrust case. Whole Foods has been under investigation since its merger with Wild Oats Markets, another high-end organic grocery chain. It was a miscalculation. FTC accused it of violating federal antitrust laws and now, in addition to the litigation costs, Whole Foods will have to sell 32 or 74 former Wild Oats stores.
Notably, Whole Foods will also have to give up valuable intellectual property rights, including rights to the Wild Oats brand name. Whole Foods has only six months to sell the stores, a bad time to shed such businesses.
It has been a long and costly fight for Whole Foods, which initially won against the FTC in district court and the appellate court in Washington, D.C. However, the FTC eventually got the D.C. Circuit to return the case to the trial court.
The settlement must be a bitter thing to swallow for the lawyers (who are all organic and free range attorneys) of Whole Foods after prevailing. It is good to know that the prohibitively priced fruits and vegetables that my family buys will now go to over litigation costs.
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