May 12, 2011
Apparently, the TTB doesn’t agree that “anything goes” in Vegas. Just ask Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Moet Hennessey, Bacardi, Future Brands, and E. & J. Gallo Winery. According to the TTB, these companies allegedly violated the FAA’s tied-house “slotting fee” restrictions. A slotting fee has nothing to do with slot machines (good guess), but instead is anything of value a supplier provides to a retailer in exchange for favorable product placement. The TTB’s allegations included “that the companies collectively furnished nearly $2 million in inducements” with the purpose “to obtain preferential product display and shelf space (also known as slotting fees) at Harrah’s Hotels and Casinos.” In an industry guidance circular released shortly before the announcement of the offers in compromise, the TTB reminded industry members that while providing promotional items etc. to retailers might be legal in some contexts, doing so as an inducement for better product placement was a violation of FAA tied-house laws in general and slotting fee prohibitions specifically (at least when the elements of interstate commerce, exclusion of other brands, and, in the case of malt beverages, similar state law are present).
Under the terms of the offers in compromise, none of the companies admitted to any wrongdoing and collectively paid out $1.9 million in fines - the largest set of offers in compromise ever accepted by TTB for trade practice violations. Jackpot.
The TTB’s recent guidance on tied-house rules and slotting fees can be found here: http://www.ttb.gov/trade_practices/ttb-g-2011-3-tied-house-guidance.pdf
The TTB’s announcement and details of the offers in compromise can be found here: http://www.ttb.gov/press/fy11/press-release-fy-11-4-faa-oic.pdf
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