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Total Wine asks US court to spurn ‘alarming’ FTC subpoena

Nov 15 (Reuters) – National wine and spirits retailer Total Wine & More has asked a U.S. judge to deny a request for corporate records from the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating the practices of one of the company’s wholesalers.
Attorneys for Retail Services & Systems, which does business as Total Wine, said in a filing on Tuesday in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court that the FTC’s subpoena was “overbroad and unnecessary.”
Maryland-based Total Wine said it is not a target of the FTC’s investigation into Southern Glazer’s, the country’s largest alcohol wholesaler. It said it has already produced thousands of records to the FTC for its inquiry into whether Southern Glazer’s has discriminated in its pricing practices. Total Wine operates in 28 states.
The FTC’s probe of Southern Glazer’s, which began in 2022, has attracted attention from law firms and others closely tracking the agency’s enforcement efforts.
The FTC has dusted off a decades-old law, the Robinson-Patman Act, to look at whether Florida-based Southern Glazer’s is discriminating against smaller or independent retailers in how the company prices its goods.
Southern Glazer’s on Wednesday did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Total Wine said in a statement last month that it “made substantial efforts to cooperate with the FTC’s investigation and respond in good faith to most of its data and document requests.”
An FTC spokesperson declined to comment. The agency has said Total Wine’s failure to fully respond to the FTC’s subpoena has “impeded and delayed the FTC’s investigation.”
Total Wine’s attorneys at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher told the court that it has produced purchase-related transaction data to the FTC and called the scope of the FTC’s information demand “truly alarming.” Total Wine has opposed sharing information that includes email communication, business strategies and assessments of competitors.
The company’s Tuesday filing said “no business expects to be excused from the responsibility to produce reasonably relevant documents,” but they do not expect to be treated “like the enemy simply because they happen to be a successful business or the customer of a target.”
A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11 before U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga.
The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Retail Services & Systems d/b/a Total Wine & More, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, No. 1:23-mc-00028.
For FTC: Patricia McDermott of the FTC
For Total Wine: Michael Dziuban and Stephen Weissman of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Read more:
FTC sues retailer Total Wine for records in industry pricing probe
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