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West Publishing Whacked With Antitrust Suit Over Bar Prep
LOS ANGELES (CN) – West Publishing Co. dba Bar/Bri conspired with Kaplan Inc. for total control of the full-service Bar preparation courses, and violated antitrust laws to do so, according to a class-action complaint in Federal Court. Through a five-year series of acquisitions and sales, West acquired monopoly control of full-service Bar review courses for the U.S.’ 300,000 law students, then jacked up prices for its courses, the complaint states. Kaplan agreed not to compete in exchange for a promise that West and Bar/Bri would not compete with it in LSAT prep courses, plaintiffs say.
Plaintiffs claims that West Bar Review competed with Harcourt-owned Bar/Bri in 43 states until 1996, when Thomson bought West. Thomson then agreed to sell West Bar to Kaplan, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Washington Post Co.
Kaplan was and is “the largest test preparatory company in the United States,” the complaint states. But it did not offer full-service Bar review courses.
Upon learning of this sale, Bar/Bri offered an illegal market division to Kaplan, in which Bar/Bri would withdraw from certain exam prep courses, including the Law School Aptitude Test prep course, in exchange for Kaplan’s refraining from competing in full-service Bar review courses, the complaint states.
Assured of a dominant position, Bar/Bri then jacked up fees for its Bar prep courses across the country, it states.
In 2001, Thomson and West repurchased Bar/Bri and has charged what it likes for the nation’s 300,000 law students, the complaint states.
Plaintiffs want defendants declared in restraint of trade, restitution, disgorgement, and costs. They are represented by Christine Pedigo with Finkelstein, Thompson & Loughran of San Francisco.