In a ruling that could have dramatic effects on the ability of government agencies to share information, a federal judge has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission can make data collected from a company available to state attorneys general.
U.S. District Court Judge John H. Pratt has denied a request by Interco Inc. that information it gave to the FTC during a price-fixing investigation be considered confidential and thus unavailable to other investigating agencies.
The FTC investigation into whether the manufacturer was forcing retailers to adhere to fixed prices for such items as Florsheim shoes, Thayer McNeil shoes, London God coats and College Town clothes ended last September when Interco signed a consent decree to stop any such practices.
Shortly thereafter, however, several state attorneys general asked the FTC for much of the information it gathered during the Interco probe: such things as sales and marketing data, internal memos and transcripts of testimony.
But since Interco had requested confidentiality when it gave that information to the commission, FTC attorneys contacted Interco first to tell the company that it would be sharing the data.
Interco immediately filed suit in federal court in St. Louis seeking to stop the FTC from opening up its files.
The decision, which will likely be appealed by Interco, could have an immediate effect in another FTC case.
A state attorney general from Arizona already has requested FTC documents in connection with a preliminary price-fixing investigation the commission is making of the cement industry, particularly documents relating to Martin Marietta Corp.