Brent W. Johnson is a Partner at Cohen Milstein and a member of the Antitrust practice group. Along with Daniel Small, Mr. Johnson leads the group’s new case investigations.
Mr. Johnson has considerable expertise in complex antitrust litigation and class actions, representing businesses and individuals as plaintiffs in federal and state civil actions with a focus on multi-district class actions. His class action experience spans multiple industries, such as motion pictures, dairy, building materials, chemicals, automotive parts, processed foods, private equity, adhesives and others. His practice encompasses a broad variety of antitrust claims, including Sherman Act Section 1 restraints of trade and Section 2 monopoly and monopsony claims. He has argued before federal district courts and state trial and appellate courts and brought cases to trial.
Mr. Johnson was recognized in 2017 by The Legal 500 as a “Next Generation Lawyer,” an honor bestowed upon ten lawyers positioned to become leaders in the field of antitrust civil litigation and class actions. He also was named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” and a “Top Rated Antitrust Litigation Attorney in Washington, DC” in 2016 and 2017.
Mr. Johnson’s recent successes include the following notable antitrust class actions:
Animation Workers: In In re Animation Workers Antitrust Litigation (N.D. Cal.), Cohen Milstein serves as co-lead counsel representing a class of animation and visual effects workers in a lawsuit alleging that the defendants, who include Pixar, Lucasfilm Ltd. and DreamWorks Animation, secretly agreed not to solicit class members and to coordinate on compensation. Settlements with all of the defendants are now pending approval before the Court and total $168.5 million.
- Northeast Dairy: In Allen vs. Dairy Farmers of America (D. Vt.), Cohen Milstein serves as lead counsel for one of two certified subclasses of Northeast dairy farmers against Dairy Farmers of America and Dairy Marketing Services who fixed the price of raw milk, allocated markets and agreed not to solicit dairy farmers to supply raw milk. Defendants DFA and DMS settled for $50 million and extensive injunctive relief, and Defendant Dean Foods Company settled for $30 million.
- Bulk Bleach: In Grand Strand v. Oltrin (D. S.C.) Mr. Johnson was personally appointed co-lead Class Counsel and led the CMST team in representing a class of direct purchasers of bulk bleach, including municipal water authorities and others, against that product’s manufacturers who engaged in an illegal market allocation agreement. The Court approved a settlement worth nearly all of the class’s single damages and remarked that the case had been “skillfully handled.”
- Urethanes (Polyether Polyols): Cohen Milstein serves as co-lead counsel in In re Urethane Antitrust Litigation (D. Kan.), on behalf of a certified class of direct purchasers of several types of chemicals who were overcharged as a result of a nationwide price-fixing and market allocation conspiracy. In the litigation, multiple defendants collectively settled for over $130 million, and a jury verdict of $1.1 billion was secured against Dow Chemical, the final defendant, in 2013. Dow ultimately settled for $835 million while the case was on appeal before the Supreme Court, bringing the total recovery to $974 million – nearly 250% of the damages found by the jury.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan: Cohen Milstein serves as co-lead counsel in The Shane Group, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (E.D. Mich.), representing a class of purchasers of hospital services against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for agreeing to MFN provisions in its contracts with hospitals throughout Michigan that required those hospitals to charge other insurers as much or considerably more for services provided to class members. The Court has finally approved a settlement with BCBSM for nearly $30 million.
Currently, Mr. Johnson is litigating the following antitrust class actions:
- Drywall: Cohen Milstein serves as co-lead counsel in In re Domestic Drywall Antitrust Litigation (E.D. Pa.), representing a class of direct purchasers of drywall against drywall manufacturers for price-fixing. The Court has preliminarily approved a settlement of $40 million with a major defendant, and denied summary judgment to four defendants. The case is ongoing.
Interest Rate Swaps: Cohen Milstein serves as co-lead counsel in In re Interest Rate Swaps Antitrust Litigation (S.D.N.Y.), representing the Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago and a proposed buy-side investor class against numerous Wall Street investment banks. The class alleges that the defendants conspired to prevent class members from trading IRS on modern electronic trading platforms and from trading with each other, all to protect the banks’ trading profits from inflated bid/ask spreads.
Broilers: In In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation (N.D. Ill.), Cohen Milstein represents a class of end-user consumers of broiler chicken in a litigation alleging that the defendants, who include Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods, agreed to restrict the supply of broilers, among other things, thereby raising their price to consumers. The case is ongoing.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein in 2009, Mr. Johnson practiced at one of the world’s premier full-service global law firms, where he focused on antitrust litigation. Some of Mr. Johnson's matters included:
- Feesers, Inc. v. Michael Foods, Inc. and Sodexho, Inc. (M.D. Pa.): Mr. Johnson was a member of the successful trial team that represented Michael Foods, a manufacturer of processed egg products and refrigerated potato products, in a three week trial of a Robinson-Patman Act action brought by a broad-line distributor of food products.
- Dahl, et al. v. Bain Capital, et al. (D. Mass.): Mr. Johnson represented The Carlyle Group in a class action where plaintiffs alleged collusion among certain private equity firms and investment banks in specific going-private transactions in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
- In re Aftermarket Filters Antitrust Litigation (N.D. Ill.): Mr. Johnson represented Champion Laboratories, a manufacturer of aftermarket automotive filters, in a class action where plaintiffs alleged a conspiracy among manufacturers to fix prices in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
- National Laser Technology, Inc. v. Biolase Technology, Inc. (S.D. Indiana): Mr. Johnson represented Biolase, the country's largest manufacturer of lasers for dental applications, against Sherman Act claims brought by a competitor aftermarket dental laser support company. The matter resulted in a favorable settlement for the client.
Mr. Johnson also advised clients in the insurance, commodities exchange, chemical and energy industries in obtaining clearance of mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures from the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in connection with premerger notification proceedings under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.
Mr. Johnson has significant experience in other complex civil litigation, including mass torts and government contracts.
Mr. Johnson is a commentator on antitrust and class action issues. In the fall of 2016, he provided testimony concerning Rule 23 to the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules on behalf of the Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws. Along with Emmy Levens, he published an article on ascertainability in the Spring 2016 issue of the ABA’s Antitrust magazine. He is a member of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law. In his pro bono work, he has represented Covenant House Washington, D.C., Habitat for Humanity International Inc. and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Mr. Johnson graduated magna cum laude from Duke University, with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish, and attended Stanford Law School, where he earned his law degree.