Brent W. Johnson is a partner at Cohen Milstein and co-chair of the firm’s Antitrust practice. He also leads the practice’s new case investigations.
Mr. Johnson has served as lead and co-lead counsel in cases that have compensated class members hundreds of millions of dollars for claims under Sherman Act Sections 1 and 2 and state antitrust laws. He also has initiated and developed cases that have helped break new ground in antitrust law, including those on behalf of workers challenging restraints in labor markets.
Mr. Johnson leads the Co-Lead Counsel teams in the following notable antitrust class actions:
- In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation (N.D. Ill.): Mr. Johnson leads the Co-Lead Counsel team for Cohen Milstein, representing 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. On December 20, 2021, the Court granted final approval of settlements with six of the defendants for a total of $181 million. In its order on fees, the Court described co-lead counsel’s work as “exemplary.” Law360 recently cited plaintiffs’ success in Broilers in naming Cohen Milstein one of its six Class Action Groups of the Year for 2021.
- Jien v. Perdue Farms, Inc. (D. Md.): Mr. Johnson leads the Co-Lead Counsel team for Cohen Milstein, representing a proposed class of poultry plant workers, in a suit alleging that the nation’s largest chicken and turkey producers conspired to suppress their compensation. The Court so far has preliminarily approved settlements with six defendants for $195.25 million and the case is in discovery with the remaining nearly dozen defendants.
Mr. Johnson’s experience and success in antitrust class actions include:
- In re Animation Workers Antitrust Litigation (N.D. Cal.): Mr. Johnson developed this case with two other attorneys in the firm, and Cohen Milstein filed the first complaint. Cohen Milstein served as Co-Lead Counsel representing a class of animation and visual effects workers in a lawsuit alleging that the defendants, including Pixar, Lucasfilm Ltd. and DreamWorks Animation, secretly agreed not to solicit class members and to coordinate on compensation. The Court approved settlements with all of the defendants for a total of $168.5 million.
- In re Domestic Drywall Antitrust Litigation (E.D. Pa.): Mr. Johnson initiated the investigation and filed the first complaint in this case, in which Cohen Milstein served as Co-Lead Counsel for a class of direct purchasers of drywall against drywall manufacturers for price-fixing. The Court ultimately approved settlements that totaled more than $190 million. The Court commented that it had sided with Plaintiffs because of counsel’s “outstanding work,” and that Plaintiffs’ counsel had a “sophisticated and highly professional approach.” It complimented the attorneys as “highly skilled” and noted that their performance on class action issues was “imaginative.” It also stated that “Few cases with no government action, or investigation, result in class settlements as large as this one.”
- Grand Strand v. Oltrin (D. S.C.): Mr. Johnson was personally appointed Co-Lead Class Counsel and led the Cohen Milstein 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.”
- In re Urethane Antitrust Litigation (D. Kan.): Cohen Milstein served as Co-Lead Counsel 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.
- The Shane Group, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (E.D. Mich.): Cohen Milstein served as Co-Lead Counsel, 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 approved a settlement with BCBSM for nearly $30 million.
Currently, in addition to those above, Mr. Johnson is litigating the following antitrust class action:
- In re Interest Rate Swaps Antitrust Litigation (S.D.N.Y.): Cohen Milstein serves as Co-Lead Counsel, 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.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, Mr. Johnson practiced at a premier global law firm, where he focused on antitrust litigation for plaintiffs and defendants. 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. Ind.): 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’s work has been repeatedly recognized. Since 2019, Lawdragon has named him to its list of “500 Leading Plaintiff Financial Lawyers.” Since 2021, Global Competition Review (GCR) has named him to its “Who’s Who Legal: Competition” list for Plaintiffs. He was recognized by The Legal 500 in 2017 - 2019 as a “Next Generation Lawyer” and as a “Next Generation Partner” since 2020, an honor bestowed upon less than a dozen lawyers positioned to become leaders in the field of antitrust civil litigation and class actions. He also was named by Super Lawyers a “Rising Star” in Antitrust Litigation in 2016 - 2018 and a Super Lawyer for Antitrust Litigation in 2020 and 2021. He was named a “Future Star” by Benchmark Litigation in 2018.
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 has published two articles in the ABA’s Antitrust magazine – one on ascertainability in the Spring 2016 issue and another on circuit splits affecting antitrust class actions in the Fall 2019 issue. He is a member of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law, and in July of 2019, he gave an ABA presentation on the legal standard to apply in cases regarding no-poach agreements. 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.