Advertiser Plaintiffs Prevail Over Meta’s Dismissal Bid in Advertising Antitrust Case

An opinion from the Northern District of California found that claims against Meta Platforms Inc., concerning its alleged restriction of competition in the social advertising market were viable earlier this week. Judge James Donato sided with individuals and entities who bought advertising on Facebook as to both timeliness and substantive challenges to their antitrust claims.

Tuesday’s four-page opinion recounted that the advertiser plaintiffs subject to Meta’s dismissal bid, one of two tracks in the consolidated antitrust case, allege that they paid artificially increased ad prices as a result of Facebook’s illegal monopolization of the market for social advertising. They state three claims for relief: attempted monopolization, monopolization, and an unlawful restraint of trade all in violation of the Sherman Act.

The previous judge presiding over the litigation granted in part and denied in part Meta’s motion to dismiss. Subsequently, the advertiser plaintiffs filed an amended complaint which Meta moved to dismiss on timeliness and adequacy grounds.

This week, Judge Donato opined that the February-filed amended complaint sufficiently relates back to the conduct set out in the initial complaint over Meta’s suggestion that the claims prior to February 2018 be trimmed or dismissed from the suit.

“The point is not well taken,” Judge Donato wrote, expressing that the amended pleading rectified the shortfalls identified in the prior dismissal order and that the claims relate back to the date of the original complaint for limitations purposes.

The court also rejected Meta’s arguments about the adequacy of the plaintiffs’ monopolization claims and specifically their antitrust injury allegations. Judge Donato said the plaintiffs’ allegations, describing Meta’s alleged anticompetitive conduct as a “monopoly broth,” was “enough to go forward” as the prior district judge overseeing the case found.

Interim counsel for the advertiser class is Bathaee Dunne LLP , Scott + Scott Attorneys at Law LLP, Ahdoot & Wolfson PC, and Levin Sedran & Berman LLP.

Facebook is represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.