Haggen sues Albertsons over market transfer

Haggen, a West Coast regional grocer that acquired seven Vons and Albertsons stores across the Las Vegas Valley earlier this year, has filed a lawsuit against Albertsons LLC and Albertsons Holdings LLC, seeking more than $1 billion in damages.

The Bellingham, Wash.-based chain bought Nevada stores as part of a merger between Albertsons LLC and Safeway.

The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleged that after Haggen’s December 2014 purchase of 146 Albertsons and Safeway stores, Albertsons engaged in “coordinated and systematic efforts to eliminate competition and Haggen as a viable competitor in over 130 local grocery markets in five states” and “made false representations to both Haggen and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about Albertsons’ commitment to a seamless transformation of the stores into viable competitors under the Haggen banner.”

Albertsons sought out Haggen to convince the FTC that Haggen would be a new competitor in local markets, which enabled Albertsons to gain the FTC’s approval of a merger between Albertsons and Safeway — a merger that created “one of the largest food retailers in the United States, with over 2,200 stores and $61 billion in combined sales,” according to the complaint.

Despite the FTC’s orders and Albertsons’ agreement to abide by all conditions of the sale, the complaint alleges, Albertsons engaged in an illegal campaign against Haggen including “premeditated acts of unfair and anti-competitive conduct that were calculated to circumvent Albertsons obligations under federal antitrust laws, FTC orders, and contractual commitments to Haggen, all of which were intended to prevent and delay the successful entry of Haggen (or any other viable competitor) into local grocery markets that Albertsons now dominates.”

The lawsuit alleges: “During the transfer process, Albertsons launched its plan to gain market power and/or monopoly power, acting in a manner that was designed to (and did) hamstring Haggen’s ability to successfully operate the stores after taking ownership.”

As a result, despite Haggen’s plans to successfully operate and expand upon the acquired stores, Haggen was “forced to close 26 of the stores that it newly acquired as a part of the Albertsons’ divestiture, and faces the potential closure of additional stores,” the complaint said. “Albertson’s anti-competitive actions critically damaged the operations, customer service, brand good will and profitability of the divested stores from the outset,” the complaint alleged, “(and) have caused significant harm to competition, local communities, employees and consumers,” throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona.

Instead of focusing on succeeding in the new markets, according to the complaint, “Haggen has had to focus on strategies to recover from Albertsons’ wrongful acts, which include, sadly, Haggen’s efforts to find new jobs for displaced employees who too are victims of Albertsons’ actions.”

Chamber backs tax

The Henderson Chamber of Commerce Issues Committee and the Henderson Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors announced support for the More Cops tax initiative in an Aug. 25 letter to Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

Last Tuesday, Clark County commissioners voted 6-1 to enact the More Cops sales tax increase, putting into motion a plan that will bolster the ranks of officers in Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas,Boulder City and Mesquite.

The action will add .05 percent on the sales tax effective Jan. 1.

The Henderson Chamber of Commerce said it believes the initiative will raise approximately $14 million in annual revenue for the Metropolitan Police Department, allowing it to hire 133 additional officers. Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers and Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen also supported the initiative, as it will allow the Henderson Police Department to hire an additional 15 officers.

The tax would raise a total of $19 million for Clark County police departments.

The Metropolitan Police Department and the Henderson Police Department are below the national average of 2.18 authorized police officers per 1,000 resident population. The tax proposal would raise the funds needed to improve the officer-to-resident ratio to 1.83 per 1,000.

“We believe this 1 percent increase in police officers in our neighborhoods may reduce violent crime in our community by 3 to 4 percent, which will have a positive impact on our local economy,” the chamber said in the letter, signed by Stan Olsen, Henderson Chamber of Commerce executive chair of the Issues Committee, and Scott Muelrath, president and CEO of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce.

The Clark County Commission voted on a similar initiative in 2013 and 2014, but it failed to pass. Commissioners disagreed over the size of the increase as well as whether there should be an increase at all. The new proposed increase is less than the one authorized by the Legislature in 2013.

Judge joins Realtors

The Nevada Association of Realtors has hired longtime local attorney and former Reno Municipal Court Judge Jim Van Winkle to help members throughout the state by staffing the association’s legal information line.

The professional trade association has more than 14,500 members.

CEO Teresa McKee said the association is honored to have Van Winkle working for NVAR on a part-time basis.

“His knowledge of Nevada law and years of experience will obviously be a valuable asset to our members,” McKee, an attorney who also once worked as NVAR’s general counsel, said in a statement. “Our legal information line is one of the most important and popular services that we provide.”

Van Winkle served on the Municipal Court bench in Reno for more than 14 years, leaving office in 2010. In 2001, he established the first DUI and drug court in Reno. He also developed a specialty court dealing with prostitution.

He has served on the Board of Governors of the American Judges Association, as president-elect of the Nevada Judges of Limited Jurisdiction and as a member of the Judicial Council of the State of Nevada.

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