Conway hires antitrust lawyers to help with lawsuit against Mara - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Conway hires antitrust lawyers to help with lawsuit against Marathon Petroleum over gas prices

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Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's office has hired two outside law firms with antitrust expertise to help with its lawsuit against Marathon Petroleum LP over gasoline prices in Louisville and Northern Kentucky.

Conway also plans to revive a separate, eight-year-old suit against Marathon – the primary wholesale supplier of gas to the state – which alleges the company illegally jacked up prices in the wake of hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.

The firms – Strauss Troy Co. of Cincinnati and Boies, Schiller & Flexner of New York – were hired in June to work on both cases against Marathon, according to a contract obtained by WDRB News under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

Conway, the Democratic nominee for governor, announced May 12 that he had filed a federal lawsuit accusing Marathon of exploiting a monopoly over wholesale gasoline in the Louisville and Northern Kentucky markets.

Marathon, of Findlay, Ohio, supplies more than 90 percent of cleaner-burning reformulated gas, or RFG, that must be sold in Louisville and Northern Kentucky, and the company has maintained that dominant position through a handful of anti-competitive practices, the suit charges.

"Many in Kentucky have wondered why retail gasoline prices seem so often irrationally higher and disconnected from those of our border states," according to the suit.

Conway said he finally decided to take action this year after giving up any hope that federal regulators such as the Federal Trade Commission or U.S. Department of Justice would pursue a case against Marathon.

Not much has happened so far in the high-profile case. Conway’s office – with the help of the outside firms – refiled its complaint on July 22.

Marathon, which said in May it would contest the lawsuit, has until Aug. 17 to respond in court.

The outside firms aren’t billing Conway’s office by the hour. Instead, they’ll be entitled to a share of the proceeds if the state wins or settles the case.

The firms will get 20 percent of the first $20 million in a judgment or settlement, and 16 to 18 percent of any additional proceeds, according to the contract.

They’re also entitled to bill the state at their normal hourly rates if Conway’s office chooses to withdraw the litigation.

The price-gouging case against Marathon began in 2007 under Conway’s predecessor Greg Stumbo, who is now speaker of the state House of Representatives. It has languished in Franklin Circuit Court since then.

As of last summer, nothing had been filed in the court record in more than two years, though both sides said the case was still active.

Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for the Conway’s office, declined to comment on any dialogue between between the parties. She said Conway’s office is moving forward with the case, as it remains unresolved.

Marathon has previously declined to comment on the price-gouging case.

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