Whole Foods Challenges FTC in Court

Whole Foods Market on Tuesday stepped up its defense in its ongoing tangle with the Federal Trade Commission, filing a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking to bar the FTC from conducting an administrative trial on the legality of Whole Foods’ 2007 acquisition of rival Wild Oats Markets.

WASHINGTON — Whole Foods Market on Tuesday stepped up its defense in its ongoing tangle with the Federal Trade Commission, filing a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking to bar the FTC from conducting an administrative trial on the legality of Whole Foods’ 2007 acquisition of rival Wild Oats Markets.

The retailer alleges the FTC violated its right to due process by prejudging the case against it and by “rushing to trial.” The complaint calls for the court to issue an injunction barring the FTC from holding the trial, currently scheduled for February, and from reviewing the case, although it would still be free to re-file the case in District Court.

Whole Foods alleges that the FTC scheduled its own administrative trial only after the acquisition had closed with the support of four federal judges in August 2007. It gave Whole Foods less than five months to defend itself in 29 separate geographic areas, a requirement the retailer said was not practical.

The FTC was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

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