Stephen P. Safranski

612.349.8500

Experience

Steve Safranski’s complex commercial litigation and appellate practice focuses on antitrust, unfair competition and trade regulation, and consumer-protection matters, including defending high-stakes class actions and handling significant appeals in these areas. Mr. Safranski has represented a diverse group of national business clients in the food and beverage, grocery, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality industries, including Albertson Companies, Best Buy, Carlson Hotels, Graco Inc., Nature’s Way, SuperValu, and Time Warner Cable.  

Mr. Safranski’s innovative litigation strategies have resulted in recent successes in major antitrust multi-district antitrust litigation matters.  For example, in a major antitrust class action, In re Wholesale Grocery Products Antitrust Litigation, Mr. Safranski has served as lead defense counsel and managed a related investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. Mr. Safranski’s efforts resulted in the termination of the FTC investigation, the denial of class certification, and the grant of summary judgment following the exclusion of the plaintiffs’ expert in 2018 (appeal pending), Mr. Safranski also recently concluded a successful representation of Norwegian salmon producer Bremnes Seashore AS in the In re Farmed Salmon Antitrust Litigation matter pending in the Southern District of Florida.     

Mr. Safranski’s litigation skills are aided by his in-depth understanding of the 21st century issues confronting the food and beverage, grocery, and cable and telecommunications industries. For instance, Mr. Safranski has published extensively and counseled several clients in the food and beverage industry on food labeling and antitrust issues and managing litigation risk in those areas. 

Mr. Safranski’s pro bono work includes representation of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, including representing the Friends in highly publicized Administrative Procedure Act litigation challenging the federal Bureau of Land Management’s reinstatement of two mineral leases adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that would be used for highly toxic sulfide ore mining. Mr. Safranski also served on the Friends Board of Directors, and he is a member of the University of Minnesota Law School Board of Advisors.

Before joining Robins Kaplan LLP, Mr. Safranski practiced at a national law firm based in Chicago, Illinois, and previously served as a law clerk for Magistrate Judge Raymond L. Erickson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Mr. Safranski is an outdoor enthusiast and avid fisherman. He has been recognized by the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as the holder of the Catch-and-Release World Record Tiger Muskellunge for 10-pound test line. 

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Representative cases in each of Mr. Safranski’s practice areas include:

Antitrust and Trade Regulation and Unfair Competition

In re Wholesale Grocery Products Antitrust Litig., 2018 WL 3862773 (D. Minn. Aug. 14, 2018), aff’d, 946 F.3d 995 (8th Cir. 2019): Served as lead defense counsel representing grocery wholesaler Supervalu Inc. in consolidated federal antitrust actions on behalf of a putative multi-state class of grocery retailers seeking $1 billion in damages. The litigation challenged an asset exchange transaction between Supervalu and a competing wholesaler, and in a related Federal Trade Commission investigation regarding the asset exchange transaction. Persuaded the FTC to close its investigation without action, and it obtained a ruling excluding plaintiff’s economics expert under Daubert and granting summary judgment. 2018 WL 3862773 (D. Minn. Aug. 14, 2018). Also represented Supervalu in nine separate appeals and a petition for certiorari over the course of the decade-long litigation, culminating in a reported decision affirming the exclusion of the plaintiff’s economics expert under Daubert and summary judgment in Supervalu’s favor. 946 F.3d 995 (8th Cir. 2019).

Insulate SB, Inc. v. Advanced Finishing Systems, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31188 (D. Minn. Mar. 11, 2014), aff’d, 797 F.3d 538 (8th Cir. 2015): Served as lead defense counsel representing fluid-handling equipment manufacturer Graco Inc. in putative nationwide antitrust class action alleging unlawful business acquisitions and boycott, exclusive-dealing, and monopolization conspiracies involving the sale and distribution of spray foam insulation equipment. Obtained the dismissal of all claims with prejudice, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31188 (D. Minn. Mar. 11, 2014), and represented Graco in the appeal, where the judgment was affirmed in a published decision applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s Colgate doctrine to unilaterally imposed exclusive-dealing policies. 797 F.3d 538 (8th Cir. 2015).

In re Farmed Salmon Antitrust Litigation (S.D. Fla.): Serving as lead defense counsel for a Norwegian salmon distributor and producer in a series of putative nationwide class actions alleging a global price-fixing conspiracy involving farmed Atlantic salmon. According to the Plaintiffs’ complaint, tens of billions of dollars of Atlantic salmon were imported into the United States during the class period. The case is pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and the European Commission is also investigating the conduct that is subject to this lawsuit. Similar class actions are also pending in Canada.

Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc.,594 F. Supp. 2d 945 (N.D. Ill. 2009), aff’d, 629 F.3d 697 (7th Cir. 2011): Served as lead defense counsel representing prominent health insurers UnitedHealth Group, Inc. and PacifiCare, Inc. in an antitrust lawsuit involving alleged merger “gun-jumping,” price-fixing, and fraud related to prescription drug reimbursement under the federal Medicare Part D program. Plaintiff Omnicare sought damages exceeding $1 billion and permanent injunctive relief. Obtained summary judgment dismissing all claims with prejudice, which was subsequently affirmed on appeal.

Mooney v. Priceline.com Incorporated et al. (D. Minn): Served as lead defense counsel representing Carlson Hotels, Inc. and Radisson Hotels International, Inc. in an antitrust lawsuit alleging price-fixing in online hotel reservations. The case was voluntarily dismissed.

Maritz Inc. v. Carlson Marketing Group, Inc., 2009 WL 3561521 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2009): Defended Carlson Marketing Worldwide against a competitor’s tortious interference with contract action. Obtained judgment on the pleadings, dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice.

False Advertising and Consumer Protection Class Action Defense

Jackson v. SFC Global Supply Chain, Inc. (S.D. Ill.): Represented global food manufacturer SFC Global Supply Chain, Inc., in a putative false-advertising class action challenging the labeling of Red Baron pizzas. After most of the damages claims were dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6), achieved a confidential settlement and stipulated dismissal.

Howerton v. Cargill, Inc. (D. Haw.): Represented global food and agriculture company Cargill, Incorporated in consolidated nationwide class action lawsuits challenging the “natural” marketing and labeling of its Truvia® Natural Sweetener tabletop sugar alternative. The matter was resolved in a nationwide class action settlement, in which Cargill agreed to provide additional information about the process for making Truvia Natural Sweetener and why it is natural and expressly permits Cargill to continue label and market its product as a natural sweetener, which was granted final approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. This was the first settlement in the “natural” litigation space where the product was allowed to still have the “natural” label.

Alleruzo v. SuperValu, Inc. (D. Minn): Along with co-counsel, represented Supervalu Inc. in a consolidated putative class action relating to data hacking incidents in June and July 2014, and September 2014, which allegedly compromised customer data collected in credit card transactions at several retail grocery chains. The litigation was dismissed and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. 925 F.3d 955 (8th Cir. May 31, 2019).

Jocelyn v. Enzymatic Therapy, LLC (E.D. NY): Represented a dietary supplements manufacturer in a putative nationwide class action challenging substantiation of health-related claims in dietary supplement products. Achieved a confidential settlement and stipulated dismissal after moving to dismiss and before discovery.

Ferrari v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 2015 WL 2242128 (D. Minn. May 12, 2015): Successfully defended Best Buy in putative nationwide false-advertising lawsuit over marketing of “LED” televisions. After obtaining a ruling dismissing nearly all of Plaintiff’s claims for lack of standing, the case was voluntarily dismissed.

Best Buy Stores, L.P. v. Ultimate Acquisition Partners, L.P. (D. Minn.): Represented Best Buy in false advertising lawsuit against Ultimate Electronics, based on Ultimate’s “lowest prices” advertising campaign. The case resolved when Ultimate agreed to withdraw the challenged advertisements.

Appellate Advocacy and Guidance

In re Wholesale Grocery Products Antitrust Litig.: Served as lead appellate counsel for Supervalu Inc. in nine separate appeals and one petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court stemming from multidistrict litigation proceedings in putative antitrust class actions alleging an unlawful market allocation seeking $1 billion in damages. In the final appeal, obtained the Eighth Circuit’s affirmance of an order excluding the plaintiffs’ economics expert under Daubert and granting summary judgment in Supervalu’s favor. 946 F.3d 995 (8th Cir. 2019).

Insulate SB, Inc. v. Advanced Finishing Systems, Inc.: Served as lead appellate counsel for fluid-handling equipment manufacturer Graco Inc. in an appeal from judgment in Graco’s favor in a putative nationwide antitrust class action alleging unlawful business acquisitions and boycott, exclusive-dealing, and monopolization conspiracies involving the sale and distribution of spray foam insulation equipment. In the published decision upholding the dismissal of all claims against Graco, the Eighth Circuit applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s Colgate doctrine to unilaterally imposed exclusive-dealing policies. 797 F.3d 538 (8th Cir. 2015).

Alleruzo v. SuperValu, Inc.: Along with co-counsel, represented Supervalu Inc. in an appeal from the dismissal of a consolidated putative class action relating to data hacking incidents in June and July 2014, and September 2014, which allegedly compromised customer data collected in credit card transactions at several retail grocery chains. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal in all respects. 925 F.3d 955 (8th Cir. May 31, 2019).

Voyageur Outward Bound School et al. v. United States of America (D.D.C.): Serving as lead appellate counsel to Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness in an Administrative Procedure Act challenge to the United States Bureau of Land Management’s reinstatement of two copper-nickel mining leases along the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The revival of these mining leases will allow exploration and development of a sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine that threatens to discharge sulfuric acid and other harmful substances and contaminate the Boundary Waters’ lakes and rivers.

Cable, Telecommunications, and Media Law

Time Warner Cable, Inc. v. City of Minneapolis, 2006 WL 1579941 (D. Minn. June 2, 2006): On behalf of franchised cable television provider, obtained permanent injunction against municipal administrative proceedings seeking $100 million in penalties.

Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Inst. of Sci. & Tech. v. Star Tribune Co., No. 05-cv-735 PAM/RLE, 2005 WL 1661514 (D. Minn. July 15, 2005): Defended television news station against defamation and civil rights conspiracy claims. Obtained dismissal of all claims.

Qwest Corp. v. Scott, 380 F.3d 367 (8th Cir. 2004): On behalf of competitive local exchange carrier, obtained reversal of permanent injunction against enforcement of Minnesota Public Utilities Commission order regulating special access services.

Complex Commercial and Business Litigation

Hansen v. Lipschultz, (Minn. Dist. Ct.): Representing a putative class of employee-shareholders of Bremer Financial Corporation in litigation seeking to block a hostile-takeover attempt to sell the bank.

IBEW Local 98 Pension Fund v. Best Buy Co., 818 F.3d 775 (8th Cir. 2016): Represented Best Buy in securities-fraud class action. Obtained reversal of class certification in interlocutory appeal, based on evidence that alleged fraudulent statements had no impact on the stock price—in first appellate decision to apply the Halliburton II standard for rebutting the fraud-on-the-market presumption at the class-certification stage.

Katun Corp. v. Clarke, 484 F.3d 972 (8th Cir. 2007): Represented company in action to enforce settlement agreement and indemnification provisions under stock purchase agreement.

Innovative Medical Systems, Inc. v. Augustine Medical, 195 Fed. Appx. 532 (8th Cir. 2006): On behalf of medical device manufacturer, defended appeal from the dismissal of treble damages claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Mirant Corp. v. NRG Energy Inc. (Del. Ch.): Defended NRG Energy Inc. in a high-profile lawsuit by Mirant Corp. involving NRG’s rejection of Mirant’s $8 billion unsolicited takeover bid. The case was dismissed upon NRG’s motion.

Intellectual Property

Israel Bio-Engineering Project v. Amgen, Inc., 401 F.3d 1299 (Fed. Cir. 2005): Represented plaintiff in appeal from summary judgment in patent infringement law suit.

Ecolab, Inc. v. FMC Corporation (D. Minn. 2007): Represented Ecolab, Inc. in a patent and trade secret lawsuit before Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum. We obtained a jury verdict of patent infringement, as well as a damages verdict that FMC misappropriated Ecolab’s trade secret protocol for online processing and sanitization of poultry carcasses.

Rotary Systems, Inc. v. TomoTherapy Inc., 2014 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1301 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 22, 2014), rev. denied (2015).: Acting as appellate counsel, obtained the reversal of summary judgment of a claim under the Minnesota Uniform Trade Secrets Act involving a rotary union that was used in radiation-therapy systems. The Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment that the Rotary Systems design was not a trade secret, finding that genuine issues of fact required a trial on whether Rotary Systems made reasonable efforts to preserve the secrecy of its designs.

Pro Bono

Voyageur Outward Bound School et al. v. United States of America (D.D.C.): Serving as lead appellate counsel to Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness in an Administrative Procedure Act challenge to the United States Bureau of Land Management’s reinstatement of two copper-nickel mining leases along the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The revival of these mining leases will allow exploration and development of a sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine that threatens to discharge sulfuric acid and other harmful substances and contaminate the Boundary Waters’ lakes and rivers.

 

 

* Past results are reported to provide the reader with an indication of the type of litigation in which we practice and does not and should not be construed to create an expectation of result in any other case as all cases are dependent upon their own

  • Named to the 2019 "Attorneys of the Year" List by Minnesota Lawyer (2019)
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2017-2022 editions)
  • Recommended in the Field of Class Action-Antitrust, The Legal 500 (2016)
  • Named a “North Star Lawyer” by the Minnesota State Bar Association for providing at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services (2015)
  • Named a "Minnesota Rising Star," Super Lawyers (2007-2008, 2010-2011)
  • Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Board Member
  • Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Campaign for Legal Aid Board Member
  • University of Minnesota Law School Board of Advisors
Bar Admissions
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, Minnesota
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin
Education
  • University of Minnesota Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, Order of the Coif (1997)
  • Northwestern University, B.A., Political Science (1993)

  • Watch Your Step: The In-House Lawyer’s Field Guide to Antitrust Compliance in the Biden Era
    Co-Presenter, Minnesota CLE, Webinar (May 26, 2021)
  • Antitrust Concerns in Retailer Interactions
    Grocery Manufacturers Association Legal Conference (March 1, 2017)
  • Food & Beverage Consumer and Class Action Litigation Defense – Proven Tactics for Achieving Successful Results
    4th Food and Beverage Litigation, Compliance, and Regulatory Exchange, Chicago, Illinois (September 30, 2016)
  • Ascertaining the Ascertainable Case
    Grocery Manufacturers Association Litigation Conference (February 25, 2015)
  • Lessons from the BWCA Tower Case: State by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness v ATT Mobility
    University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota (March 5, 2014)
  • Lessons from the BWCA Tower Case: State by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness v ATT Mobility
    University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, Minnesota (October 15, 2013)

RESOURCES

Links to full publications and news releases.

PUBLICATIONS

September 28, 2021
Briefly: Federal appeals: How much notice is enough?
Stephen Safranski and Geoffrey Kozen - Minnesota Lawyer
August 26, 2021
Briefly: Motions for judicial notice in the 8th Circuit
Glenn Danas, Eric Magnuson, Stephen Safranski - Minnesota Lawyer
May 11, 2020
Competitor Collaborations and Covid-19—Antitrust Considerations
Stephen Safranski, Eric Barstad - Bloomberg Law
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