DETROIT (CN) - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. used Al Capone's tactics and computer hacking to monopolize the market for promotions in 40,000 retail stores, and coupon inserts in "scores of newspapers nationwide," the maker of Dial Soap claims in a federal antitrust complaint.
The Dial Corp. sued News Corporation, and its subsidiaries News America, News America Marketing FSI, and News America Marketing In-Store Services.
Murdoch, the head of News Corp., is not a defendant in the complaint.
The lengthy complaint begins: "In two distinct relevant markets the multifaceted and pervasive exclusionary strategies of defendants ('News') over twenty years have violated the antitrust laws of the United States. News has suppressed competitive promotion of a massive number of consumer goods in forty thousand retail stores, and scores of newspapers nationwide, to acquire and maintain two unlawful monopolies and earn large monopoly profits at the expense of its purchasers.
"Its unlawful purposes could not be more transparent. For example, in a sales meeting Paul Carlucci, then News America Inc.'s Chief Operating Officer, Paul Carlucci, illustrated News' desire for the ultimate in competitive suppression with a video from 'The Untouchables,' in which Al Capone serves as a sales role model as he cudgels a competitive enemy to death with a baseball bat. Mr. Carlucci has been equally blunt with the press as to News' exclusionary purposes, vowing to 'destroy' his competitors as a 'man who has to have it all.'
"Mr. Carlucci threatened to fire any News employee ('concerned about doing the right thing') who did not support exclusive control by News of shelves in retail accounts.
His and his employer's goals have been achieved. They have severely injured competition in two relevant markets for the sale of in-store promotion services and free-standing insert ('FSI') coupons in newspapers and have violated well-established antitrust law.
"Mr. Carlucci's unlawful achievements were rewarded by News with a promotion to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of News America Marketing, Inc."
Murdoch's News Corp.'s use of illegal computer hacking in England led the billionaire to shut down his largest newspaper, the News of the World, and several criminal indictments of his editors. Dial Corp. claims News Corp. used computer hacking to gain an edge in the U.S. ad market.
It claims that News Corp. already has paid "hundreds of millions of dollars" to settle antitrust complaints from its U.S. competitors.
The two "relevant markets" are in-store promotions and free-standing inserts. Inserts - delivering nonaffiliated companies' ads in newspaper inserts - have become an economic lifeline for the struggling U.S. newspaper industry.
In the first market, in-store promotions, Dial claims News Corp. used exclusive contracts to deny competitors access to distribution through retail chains.
"News has unlawfully maintained a monopoly over the relevant market for these third-party services from approximately 2004 through the present," the complaint states.
It adds: "Consumer packaged goods companies buy in-store promotion services for use in retail chains as a national sales tool. Often simultaneously, they seek to put their promotions in front of millions of consumers in more than forty thousand stores nationwide. Therefore News' competitors need to have substantial national retail distribution networks comparable in scope to that of News to be competitive. News has denied them this scope by employing long-term, exclusive contracts to lock them out of the chains," the complaint states.