June 19, 2017

The Antitrust Week In Review

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

GE wins U.S. antitrust approval for Baker Hughes deal.  General Electric Co. has won U.S. antitrust approval to merge its oil and gas business with Baker Hughes Inc. to form a new publicly traded company, the U.S. Justice Department has announced.  GE and Baker Hughes announced the deal in October, months after Halliburton’s effort to buy Baker Hughes collapsed under pressure from the Justice Department.  Under the agreement, GE will combine Baker Hughes with its oil and gas business, creating a company with $23 billion in annual revenue, the companies said.

Google Said to Be Facing Record E.U. Fine by End of August.  European antitrust officials are preparing to hit Google with a potentially record fine by the end of August over some of the Silicon Valley giant’s search services, according to two people with direct knowledge of the case.  Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition chief, is in the final stages of ruling on the case, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly.  Any financial penalty is expected to be larger than the fine of 1.06 billion euros, now about $1.2 billion, then about $1.4 billion — at the time the highest ever — that Intel was forced to fork out for antitrust abuses in Europe in 2009.

Dow, DuPont merger wins U.S. antitrust approval with conditions.  DuPont and Dow Chemical Co. have won U.S. antitrust approval to merge on condition that the companies sell certain crop protection products and other assets, according to a court filing on Thursday.  The asset sales required by U.S. antitrust enforcers were similar to what the companies had agreed to give up in a deal they struck with European regulators in March.  The deal is one of several big mergers by farm suppliers, and the antitrust approval was quickly denounced by the head of the National Farmers Union, saying that farmers would face higher costs.  The U.S Justice Department said the asset sales would prevent price hikes or lost innovation.

Deutsche Bank reaches $170 million Euribor-rigging settlement.  Deutsche Bank AG will pay $170 million to settle an investor lawsuit claiming it conspired with other banks to manipulate the benchmark European Interbank Offered Rate and related derivatives.  A preliminary settlement was filed with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires a judge’s approval.  It follows similar settlements with Barclays Plc and HSBC Holdings Plc for a respective $94 million and $45 million, which have won preliminary court approval.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    June 5, 2017

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

    Exclusive: Google faces hefty EU fine in shopping case by August – sources.  EU antitrust regulators aim to slap a hefty fine on Alphabet unit Google over its shopping service before the summer break in August, two people familiar with the matter said, setting the stage for two other cases involving the U.S. company.  The European Commission’s decision will come after a seven-year investigation into the world’s most popular internet search engine triggered by scores of complaints from both U.S. and European rivals.  The EU competition authority accused Google in April 2015 of distorting internet search results to favor its shopping service, harming both rivals and consumers.

    Qualcomm hits at FTC over ‘deficient’ antitrust suit.  The back and forth goes on in the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust suit against Qualcomm, the world’s largest maker of mobile chips.  Late Friday night, Qualcomm fired the latest salvo in the case, filing documents in which it says, for a second time, that the FTC’s suit should be dismissed because it doesn’t back up the agency’s claims that Qualcomm’s practices hampered competition.

    Dollar Express sues Dollar Tree for driving it out of business.  U.S. discount retailer Dollar Express has filed a lawsuit accusing rival Family Dollar and its parent company Dollar Tree Inc of driving it out of business, the third government-required divestiture to fail in recent years.  Dollar Express was formed in 2015 when private equity group Sycamore Partners II LP bought some 330 stores in 35 states from Family Dollar and Dollar Tree.  Family Dollar had to sell the stores in order to win antitrust approval to merge with Dollar Tree.  In the lawsuit filed Thursday, Dollar Express accuses Dollar Tree of using confidential information to open new shops near the divested stores to drive them out of business.

    EU regulators say Qualcomm has not offered concessions in NXP bid.  U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm has not offered any concessions so far in its $38-billion bid for NXP Semiconductors, EU antitrust regulators said on Friday, increasing the risk of a lengthy investigation into the deal.  Qualcomm, which supplies chips to Android smartphone makers and Apple, had until June 1 to propose concessions to allay possible competition concerns over the biggest-ever deal in the semiconductor industry.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      May 30, 2017

      The Antitrust Week In Review

      Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

      EU to Conclude Google Antitrust Cases in Next Few Months.  EU antitrust regulators will rule in the “next few months” whether Alphabet’s Google abused its dominance of internet searches and other areas, according to a senior European Commission official, an outcome that could lead to a hefty fine.  The world’s most popular internet search engine has been in the Commission’s crosshairs since 2010 over the promotion of its own shopping service in internet searches at the expense of the services of rivals.

      Judge Tosses Suit Against NFL Over Cheerleader Wages.  A lawsuit accusing the NFL and team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders lacks evidence to support that claim, a federal judge said.  U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the lawsuit by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader. The lawsuit sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

      EU Antitrust Regulators to Scrutinize Syndicated Loans.  European Union antitrust regulators are to put major financial services firms under the microscope by examining the impact of syndicated loans on credit markets.  “The fact that the (European) Commission commissions a study in a specific market does not in any way imply that there is anti-competitive behavior taking place or that the Commission would open an investigation into that market,” spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an email.  In Europe, bank loans traditionally accounted for around 70 percent of lending to companies and other borrowers.  This contrasts with the United States where the credit markets have made up some 70-80 percent of where companies borrow.

      Gazprom Executive to Meet EU Antitrust Chief, May Have to Improve Concessions.  Gazprom’s deputy chief executive will meet EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager on Monday who may ask the Russian gas giant to improve its concessions aimed at ending a six-year-long investigation, a source close to the matter said on Sunday.  State-controlled Gazprom, which supplies a third of the EU’s gas, offered in March to scrap business practices and a pricing policy seen by the European Commission as anti-competitive in a bid to stave off a possible fine.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        May 22, 2017

        The Antitrust Week In Review

        Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

        EU Fines Facebook 110 mln euros over WhatsApp deal.  European Union antitrust regulators fined Facebook 110 million euros ($122 million) on Thursday for giving misleading information during a vetting of its deal to acquire messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.  Calling it a “proportionate and deterrent fine,” the European Commission, which acts as the EU’s competition watchdog, said Facebook had said it could not automatically match user accounts on its namesake platform and WhatsApp, but two years later launched a service that did exactly that.

        Tronc in Talks with Wrapports to Acquire Chicago Sun-Times.  Two longtime newspaper rivals in the once highly competitive Chicago market may end with the acquisition of the Chicago Sun-Times by the owner of the Chicago Tribune, which has grabbed the attention of the U.S. Justice Department Monday.  Chicago-based Wrapports LLC announced in a statement it has agreed to enter into discussions with Tronc Inc., owner of several major newspapers, after failing to interest other media companies in acquiring the Sun-Times.

        HSBC Settles Bondholders’ Claims of Libor Manipulation.  HSBC Holdings Plc has settled claims by a group of U.S. bondholders that it conspired with rivals to rig the Libor benchmark interest rate, according to a New York court filing by the bondholders’ attorneys.  The filing did not disclose the terms of the settlement, which it said must be approved by U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan federal court.

        Antitrust: Commission Opens Formal Investigation into Aspen Pharma’s Pricing Practices for Cancer Medicines.  The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into concerns that Aspen Pharma has engaged in excessive pricing concerning five life-saving cancer medicines.  The Commission will investigate whether Aspen has abused a dominant market position in breach of EU antitrust rules.

        Merck, Upsher-Smith to Pay $60 mln in ‘Pay-for-Delay’ Drug Case.  Merck & Co Inc and Upsher-Smith Laboratories Inc. have agreed to pay $60.2 million to resolve a lawsuit that said they entered into a deal to unlawfully delay the availability of generic versions of potassium supplement K-Dur.  The settlement, disclosed in papers filed in federal court in Newark, came in a class action filed in 2001 arising out of a settlement in patent litigation between Upsher-Smith and Schering-Plough Corp, now owned by Merck.  That patent deal, plaintiffs in the antitrust class action said, was an example of a “pay-for-delay” settlement, in which brand-name drug makers pay generic companies to keep their products off the market for a longer period.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, General, International Competition Issues

          May 15, 2017

          The Antitrust Week In Review

          Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

          Anthem Gives Up Cigna Bid, Vows to Fight on Over Damages.  Anthem has ended its soured, $48 billion bid to buy rival Cigna, but the nation’s second-largest health insurer isn’t giving up a fight over whether Cigna deserves a termination fee for the scrapped deal.  Anthem said Friday that Cigna sabotaged the merger agreement and caused “massive damages” for Anthem, which provides Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage in several states.  Indianapolis-based Anthem announced its decision a day after a Delaware judge refused its request to extend a ban blocking Cigna from pulling out of the deal.  The deal, announced in 2015, had already been rejected by a federal judge and an appeals court after antitrust regulators sued last summer to stop it. Anthem Inc. said last week that it would seek a Supreme Court review of the case.

          EU to Launch More E-commerce Antitrust Investigations.  The European Union plans to launch more antitrust investigations into e-commerce companies after a two-year inquiry uncovered business practices that restrict competition, the European Commission said on Wednesday.  In its report on the initial inquiry, the EU executive said it had found an increased use of contractual restrictions to control product distribution, which could be in breach of EU antitrust rules.  “Certain practices by companies in e-commerce markets may restrict competition by unduly limiting how products are distributed throughout the EU,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

          Bumble Bee Foods Fined $25 Million, Admits Price Fixing.  Tuna-canning company Bumble Bee Foods has agreed to pay a $25 million fine after pleading guilty to conspiring with competitors to fix prices, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday.  The San Diego-based company will also cooperate with an ongoing antitrust investigation into the packaged seafood industry, the federal agency said.  The fine will increase to $81.5 million if the company is sold.  The criminal charge reflects broader concerns about competition within the industry.

          Trump U.S. Antitrust Nominee Says will be Independent of White House.  Makan Delrahim, who was chosen by President Donald Trump to be the top U.S. antitrust regulator, said on Wednesday that he would maintain independence from the White House in enforcing antitrust law.  The Senate must still vote to confirm Delrahim.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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