Facebook parent Meta is urging a federal appellate court to leave in place a trial judge's decision dismissing an antitrust lawsuit brought by a New York-led coalition of 48 attorneys general.
The attorneys generals' lawsuit -- like a similar antitrust case filed by the Federal Trade Commission -- centers on Facebook's acquisition of Instagram (acquired for $1 billion in 2012) and WhatsApp (bought for $19 billion in 2014). In attorneys general are seeking to force Facebook to unwind those deals.
In papers filed Monday with the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the social media platform argues that U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C. rightly ruled that the states' case was time-barred due to “laches” -- meaning that the attorneys general waited too long after the acquisitions to sue.
“The district court correctly acted within its discretion in determining that laches bars the acquisition claims,” Facebook wrote.
In January, the state attorneys general asked the appellate court to reverse Boasberg's ruling. They argued that laches doesn't apply when “sovereign states” sue to obtain court orders in the public interest.
Facebook counters with several arguments, including that the states' delay in bringing a case was unreasonable.
Boasberg “correctly found that the states alleged facts making apparent that Facebook would suffer severe prejudice were the states’ belated claims to proceed,” Facebook wrote.
The company elaborated that it has long since integrated WhatsApp and Instagram into all Facebook products.
“Belated antitrust challenges seeking divestiture -- the principal remedy sought here -- are therefore barred by laches precisely because of the obvious difficulty of 'unscrambling the egg,'” the company wrote.
The states are expected to respond to Facebook's arguments by April 14.
The lawsuit by the FTC is proceeding separately in front of Boasberg, and isn't expected to go to trial until 2024 at the earliest.