Knockin’ on Your Association’s Door: What You Need to Know about Membership Restrictions and the Antitrust Laws


Groucho Marx famously said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” Associations frequently take this sentiment to heart by establishing membership restrictions and other limits on access to association services or events. These restrictions come in many shapes and sizes – limiting membership to a specific trade, profession, or market function; imposing geographic limitations; or requiring professional certification, state or federal licensure, or adherence to a code of ethics, to name just a few.

These restrictions often serve a legitimate purpose by helping the association function effectively and focusing its efforts on benefiting an industry or profession with common interests. At the same time, however, these restrictions potentially limit competition by excluding others from participating in association activities. Although courts usually are reluctant to interfere with internal association rules and decisions, an association’s establishment of membership restrictions or qualifications may raise legal concern under the antitrust laws.

This article provides a brief overview of the antitrust laws as they apply to membership restrictions, along with some suggested practices for minimizing potential liability.

Please see full article below for more information.

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Published In: Antitrust & Trade Regulation Updates, Business Organization Updates, Nonprofits Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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