Justice Departent Swoops in to Prevent Parking Monopoly in Dallas (and Elsewhere)

Categories: Biz, Legal Battles

If you've ever wondered who controls any given parking lot downtown, the answer is probably either Central Parking Corporation or Standard Parking Corporation. Central owns more than a dozen locations there, according to its website. Standard owns several more, though its website doesn't say exactly how many. The same thing is true in downtown New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and pretty much every other major city in the country. All told, the companies dominate the off-street parking industry, operating 4,400 parking facilities and raking in $1.5 billion per year.

And earlier this year, Standard, based in Chicago, announced that it would acquire its largest competitor. Standard CEO James Willhelm touted the move as a way to improve efficiency and save costs by eliminating redundancy.

The U.S. Department of Justice viewed the proposed merger somewhat differently. The companies are head-to-head competitors, the feds say, whose attempts to gain a competitive advantage over the other in pricing, hours of operation, security, etc. has benefited customers. A merger would do the opposite.

"The proposed merger threatens to end that competition and would provide Standard with the ability to exercise market power by raising prices or reducing the quality of services offered for off-street parking," the DOJ announced yesterday.

Also yesterday, the department's antitrust division filed a civil lawsuit in federal court objecting to certain aspects of the deal. Specifically, the DOJ was concerned that the merger would leave Standard with a monopoly on parking operations in the central business districts of 29 cities, Dallas included.

Everything's copacetic, though. The DOJ simultaneously announced that it had reached a settlement with Standard in which the company will divest itself of parking facilities in those cities that bring in $85 million. So, everyone wins. The government's anti-trust concerns were addressed, Standard gets to rake in even more money, and drivers will be gouged just a little bit less when they park.

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So everything is suddenly copacetic?  Call me a cynic, but for this anti-trust case to suddenly resolve itself, I would hazard a guess that Standard, or someone acting on their behalf, suddenly divested a six figure check to the DNC or Obama 2012 campaign. Standards is headquartered in Chicago after all. I wonder if Rahm received a broker's commission?

everlastingphelps topcommenter

Stopping the ATF from trafficking thousands of firearms to the Mexican cartels resulting in hundreds if not thousands of murders in Mexico and the US?  No time.


We're too busy with regulating the parking lot business!


One has to wonder why the City of Dallas, with it batallion of in house lawyers (far larger than any other municipal legal department in the State of Texas), didn't raise a red flag on this deal.


With all of the City's efforts to bring back downtown, surely a parking monopoly would have been bad for business-- yet it appears they did nothing but sit on their hands while the Feds moved the ball forward.




Antitrust. Not anti-trust. Thank you.


Oh boy, like divesting 107 parking locations out of 4,400 is going to make a difference!  Doing anti-trust right means not allowing this kind of merger.  The writer of this piece must be getting payolla - the conclusion of the article doesn't reveal that the deal is going through.  That's just crappy reporting!

scottindallas topcommenter

 @everlastingphelps regulating monopolies is an essential part of business, it's established in Common Law, which predates our own Constitution and is the basis on which our laws are written. 


By the way, why is it that Federal Guns kill people, but NRA guns don't kill people?   You need to tighten up your rhetoric. 

scottindallas topcommenter

 @WylieH I'm not sure the city can rule on the consolidation of these two firms.  Perhaps they could regulate parking, but it would seem homerule would have it's limits here. 


I was wondering, if the City of Dallas consults outside council like other cities do?  Other cities must have substantial legal fees, do you know if the city is able to conserve there? 

RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @WylieH Does the city's legal department EVER do anything?  Anytime the City has to go to court for something, it seems they've hired some outside, heavy hitter firm to approach the bench for them.

primi_timpano topcommenter

@WylieH Dallas' in house attorneys probably weren't up to the job. Antitrust is a relatively arcane subject the application of which is highly dependent on the facts. Still, they should have engaged outside counsel to advise the city on its remedies. I hope they begin regulating parking rates.

EricNicholson4 moderator

 @norman44 Yep. Thanks to this article, my bike can be parked free at any of Standard's locations. Cha-ching!

everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @scottindallas Presumably, the DOJ would be interested in stopping all illegal sale (which "NRA Guns", whatever those are, wouldn't not be a part of.)  Reality shows that they are only interested in stopping illegal sales if there isn't a political use for them.

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