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President Signs National Anti-Price Gouging Executive Order

On Monday March 23, 2020, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at preventing hoarding and price gouging.  Attorney General William H. Barr indicated that the order is authorized under the Defense Protection Act, which allows the United States to compel private industry to assist in meeting national defense needs in response to national emergencies.

The new executive order empowers the Health and Human Services Secretary to designate supplies as “critical.”  Hoarding – accumulating quantities beyond those reasonable to satisfy personal or business needs – or price gouging is prohibited with respect to these “critical” supplies.  Presently, the Health and Human Services Secretary has not designated any supplied as “critical,” It is, however, anticipated that the order will be directed toward medical supplies, as opposed to traditional consumer goods like toilet paper or cleaning products that have also been the subject of supply shortages in the face of COVID-19.

Businesses already required to comply with various state anti-price gouging laws (see previous post) will need to confront the additional challenge presented by this new executive order. This is particularly true, given that the executive order carries with it the possibility of criminal penalties.  Employers should vigilantly ensure that the necessary personnel are aware of these additional requirements being imposed by various levels of government.

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About this Author

Anthony Argiropoulos, antitrust attorney, Epstein Becker
Member of the Firm

ANTHONY ARGIROPOULOS is a Member of the Firm in the Litigation and Health Care and Life Sciences practices and Co-Chair of the firm's National Litigation Steering Committee. He represents health care clients, publicly held companies, and other large businesses in high-stakes litigation and dispute avoidance and resolution. He has represented clients in federal and state court matters throughout the United States and his deep experience includes numerous jury trials, bench trials, injunction proceedings, arbitrations, and mediations.

Sheila Woolson, Epstein Becker Law Firm, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Sheila Woolson is a Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management and Litigation practices, in the firm's Newark office. She focuses her practice on complex litigation matters across a wide array of commercial and employment disputes.

Ms. Woolson draws on her training as a chemist and her experience in the pharmaceutical industry as she represents clients in matters involving state and federal environmental disputes, products liability claims, and toxic torts—matters in which her scientific background is a significant asset. In addition, Ms. Woolson uses her experience to assist clients conducting environmental due diligence and remediation in connection with transactions and regulatory obligations.