FTC to File Antitrust Lawsuit Against Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits

FTC to File Antitrust Lawsuit Against Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits

Leonora Chavez
2 min read

FTC Set to File Antitrust Lawsuit Against Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits

The Federal Trade Commission is preparing to file an antitrust lawsuit against Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits, the largest U.S. alcohol distributor, over alleged "secret kickbacks" to major retail customers in violation of the 1936 Robinson-Patman Act. This law, which has seen limited enforcement since 2000, aims to prevent price discrimination that harms competition. Southern Glazer's, with a distribution network spanning 44 states and annual revenue of $26 billion in 2023, could face significant legal challenges due to the intricate state-specific regulations governing the alcohol industry. This move aligns with the FTC's recent aggressive stance on antitrust enforcement under the Biden administration, which has already targeted prominent companies such as Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, and Kroger.

Key Takeaways

  • FTC is preparing to sue Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits for alleged violations of the Robinson-Patman Act.
  • Southern Glazer's reported revenue of $26 billion in 2023 and distributes over 7,000 alcohol brands across 44 states.
  • The Robinson-Patman Act, rarely enforced in recent years, prohibits discriminatory pricing that stifles competition.
  • Complex state-specific alcohol distribution laws pose challenges to federal antitrust enforcement efforts.
  • The potential lawsuit reflects the FTC's heightened focus on antitrust under the Biden administration.


The FTC's anticipated lawsuit against Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits has the potential to disrupt the alcohol distribution sector, impacting both suppliers and retailers. Reviving the enforcement of the long-dormant Robinson-Patman Act symbolizes a renewed regulatory vigor under the Biden administration. Southern Glazer's, with its extensive reach and substantial revenue, faces legal and reputational risks. This action could trigger heightened scrutiny of industry practices, leading to possible restructuring and influencing market dynamics and pricing strategies. In the long term, it may instigate a more competitive landscape, albeit with increased regulatory compliance costs.

Did You Know?

  • Robinson-Patman Act: Enacted in 1936, this federal law aims to prevent price discrimination between different purchasers of similar commodities, particularly when such discrimination may substantially diminish competition or lead to monopoly formation. Its primary goal is to safeguard smaller businesses from being undersold by larger competitors benefiting from preferential pricing.
  • Secret Kickbacks: These are undisclosed payments or benefits offered by a supplier to a buyer, often with the intent of securing business or influencing purchasing decisions. Such practices are generally unlawful as they can distort fair competition and violate antitrust regulations.
  • State-Specific Alcohol Distribution Laws: Each U.S. state maintains unique regulations governing the sale, distribution, and taxation of alcohol, posing challenges to federal enforcement actions like antitrust lawsuits. These laws often reflect historical, cultural, and economic factors specific to each state, contributing to the complexity of the alcohol industry's regulatory landscape.

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