Steven was born and educated in New York, and moved to California in 1996. He practises in federal and state courts throughout the United States. Steven’s primary area of practice is in complex civil actions, in particular class and representative actions involving antitrust, securities and environmental law.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
I grew up in the 1960s with a firm commitment to civil rights and a strong distrust of institutions. I believe that decisions such as Brown v Board of Education represent the best aspirations of America. I came to recognise that one of the few means through which individuals and the less powerful can respond to misconduct by powerful corporations and institutions is through the courts. I was fortunate enough to have the basic skills and opportunity to become a lawyer.
What did you find most challenging about entering the antitrust area?
The misleading use of economic theory to distract from facts. Overall, antitrust is relatively simple, no matter what people say. Businesses around the world have looked for ways to maximise their profits at the expense of their consumers ever since there have been private corporations. They do it because it pays. Certain strands of thought seek to suggest that we ignore the facts, conduct and motives in a case and instead pay attention to economic theory. These arguments have found receptive audiences in high places. They are much like the oft-quoted line: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
What do you enjoy most about working in antitrust?
The antitrust bar is almost universally bright, creative, civil and professional. We work with each other often and develop relationships of trust and friendship that last decades.
How has the politicisation of antitrust affected the market?
In obvious ways: criminal antitrust prosecutions are down; “no-prosecution” agreements are up.
In surprising ways: the worldwide focus on Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook, and the various approaches to regulating those companies, coupled with renewed trade wars between the US and China, will likely lead to less harmonisation and increased disparity between national policies.
In disturbing ways: the recent announcement of a US Department of Justice antitrust investigation into the Big Three US auto makers because of an emissions agreement that they entered into with California – the largest state by population in the US and the world’s fifth largest economy – is an utter political misuse of the government’s power and resources.
What are the current obstacles facing civil antitrust enforcement?
The US business community has had a very effective blueprint since the 1970s to establish a legal system in which it is harder and harder to have a civil complaint sustained; certify a class; and survive a summary judgment motion. Much of this has been based on the supposed cost of antitrust litigation – which is rarely weighed in relation to the harm caused by antitrust violations. These new rules have tipped the scales even more in favour of the defence than they were before. Fortunately, tenacious civil lawyers have not been discouraged, nor has antitrust activity diminished.
Big tech is becoming increasingly regulated and held accountable in many countries. Why do you think the US is lagging behind other countries?
Many reasons. Other countries were ahead of the US in protecting privacy, which gave them a head start on understanding what big tech’s business model was. This head start helped these countries to understand sooner that the business of these companies was largely trading in the personal data of individuals throughout the world, and that they had become overwhelmingly powerful. In the US, only a few voices were crying out about this problem before it was too late; now, the reaction is again highly politicised.
How can the current law concerning indirect purchasers be improved?
Indirect purchaser law – meaning the law of the states and not the federal government – should be given the respect it deserves as a matter of constitutional delegation of power. This body of law is equal to federal law, not subservient, and it should not be construed as if it were simply a less vigorous copy of federal law.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in antitrust?
Enjoy it. The antitrust laws in the US, both federal and state, are intended to provide vital protection to our economy and consumer wellbeing. Those who work in this field can contribute to the betterment of our society. Enjoy the intellectual stimulation, and enjoy the wonderful courts, court staff, attorneys, experts and consultants that you will have the opportunity to work with.
Steven Williams is identified as a top-notch competition lawyer and a "highly intelligent strategic thinker".
Peers and clients say:
"Steven works hard for his clients, but manages to do so without making enemies in the process. He knows the area of antitrust class actions cold, and he is easy to get along with."
With over 25 years of practice, Steve Williams, a partner at the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, has handled, successfully and with distinction, all aspects of litigation and trial in state and federal courts and in private arbitration.
Mr Williams has played a lead role in many of the most prominent antitrust class cases litigated in the US over the past decade, including In re Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation, In re Static Random Access Memory Litigation, Precision Associates v Panalpina World Transport, and In re Transpacific Air Transportation Litigation. Mr Williams has helped recover more than US$2 billion and has been responsible for new law, including groundbreaking decisions narrowing the scope of the Filed Rate Doctrine and permitting civil damage claims in E&J Gallo Winery v EnCana Corp, 503 F.3d 1027 (9th circuit) (2007) and Wortman v All Nippon Airways, 854 F.3d 606 (9th circuit) (2017), and a ruling that “umbrella damages” are available under California state law (County of San Mateo v CSL Ltd, 2014 US Dist. LEXIS 116342 (ND Cal (20 August 2014)).
Mr Williams has been named to leadership positions by federal courts throughout the USA. He has represented claimants in cases involving memory chips, pharmaceuticals, air passenger transportation, air cargo transportation, cathode ray tubes, capacitors, resistors, flash memory, lithium ion batteries, financial products and services, poultry and water. He has been appointed to represent classes, and in non-class cases he has represented the Chief Justice of California, the Judicial Council of California, the Consumers Union of the United States, public pension funds, private investment funds, many cities and counties of California, public utilities including water districts, and individual consumers.