(Reuters) – A large group of states, led by New York, argued before an appeals court on Monday that they should reopen an antitrust lawsuit against Meta’s Facebook because of ongoing harm from the company’s actions and because the states had not waited too long to file their complaints.
Barbara Underwood, a New York lawyer who led the group of 46 states, Guam and the District of Columbia, said it was wrong to treat states as a class action and put a limit on when they can sue. States not involved are Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota.
She said the states’ action was more akin to law enforcement, so “laches,” which prohibits unreasonable delay in filing, would not apply.
She said Facebook̵7;s actions hurt the economy and the market.
The states are asking the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reinstate a lawsuit filed in 2020, at the same time the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued the company.
Both the FTC and the states had asked the court to order Facebook to sell Instagram, which it bought for $1 billion in 2012, and WhatsApp, which it bought for $19 billion in 2014. The FTC battle with Facebook is moving forward.
Aron Panner argued for Facebook, which had successfully had the government lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the two acquisitions were well publicized at the same time, as were the company’s policies regarding third-party apps. Facebook has been accused of penalizing apps on its platform that connect to other social networks, for example.
He said laches should apply because the state’s lawsuit was more of a class action and less law enforcement, and that the actions described “occurred years ago and did not cause antitrust concerns at the time.”
Judge Raymond Randolph asked who Facebook’s competitors were, noting news stories that the company had struggled to retain younger users.
Panner pointed to the popularity of TikTok, Twitter and others, adding: “Sometimes facts that are good for an antitrust defense are bad for (a) business.”