Bona Law Files Antitrust Complaint on Behalf of Lucasys Seeking to Restore Competition in Utility Management Software Industry
July 20, 2020, San Diego - Bona Law PC and Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante Littlefield LLC filed an antitrust complaint in Atlanta federal court July 17, 2020 on behalf of a startup tax consulting and software development company that serves investor-owned, rate-regulated utilities against a monopoly software provider for excluding it from the market.
The complaint, brought by Atlanta-based Lucasys Inc., challenges actions—including sham legal threats and defamatory statements—by PowerPlan, Inc., an incumbent monopolist with over 99% market share for utility management software. The complaint further alleges that these unlawful actions are cutting utilities’ access to modern, efficient software solutions.
The complaint alleges PowerPlan stopped innovating after achieving a monopoly, and that its utility management software is now overly expensive, inflexible, and incapable of handling certain functions required by utilities. Accordingly, utilities must hire outside consultants—sometimes costing millions of dollars—to remediate and use their own data stored in PowerPlan’s archaic software. These problems with PowerPlan’s software are particularly acute when utilities must calculate deferred taxes, because PowerPlan’s software cannot adapt to changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. As a result of these problems, customers have an “overwhelmingly” negative view of PowerPlan.
Lucasys is at the forefront of solving these problems for utility customers, both through consulting services and new software solutions. But to protect its monopoly, PowerPlan is allegedly threatening customers who work with Lucasys with “sham legal threats” to cut off clients from its rivals, preventing customers from sharing their own data with Lucasys, and falsely claiming that Lucasys is misappropriating non-descript “trade secrets” that are not protectable in any event. The complaint alleges that these actions have permitted PowerPlan to unlawfully maintain its “early mover” advantage and hold back the market as a whole, violating both Section 1 and Section 2 of the Sherman Act as well as various state laws.
“Lucasys wants to provide better software to investor owned, rate-regulated utilities, but it is being unlawfully blocked by an incumbent monopolist,” said Jon Cieslak, a Bona Law partner and lead antitrust counsel for the case. “This lawsuit is a step in the direction of restoring competition for utility management software, which will help utilities manage their businesses more efficiently and ultimately lower rates for consumers across the country.”
The complaint seeks injunctive relief preventing PowerPlan from continuing its anticompetitive conduct as well as trebled antitrust damages of at least $47 million.
Bona Law often represents emerging, disruptive competitors who face anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct by incumbent market participants who are not used to competing vigorously on the merits and instead use their power in the market to quell budding threats. The antitrust laws protect competition and, in turn, lead to innovation, higher quality products and services and, ultimately, lower prices for consumers.
Lucasys is represented by Jon Cieslak, Aaron Gott, and Jarod Bona of Bona Law PC and Richard Robbins, Jason Alloy, and Joe Saul of Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante Littlefield LLC, an Atlanta-based trial-focused litigation powerhouse. The two firms have collaborated on several antitrust and other business disputes from coast to coast.
The case is Lucasys Inc. v. PowerPlan, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-02987-AT (N.D. Ga.), and has been assigned to District Judge Amy Totenberg.