July 9, 2018

The Antitrust Week In Review

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

Tech Giants Win a Battle Over Copyright Rules in Europe.  It’s a fight nearly as old as the internet. On one side are news organizations, broadcasters and music companies that want to control how their content spreads across the web, and to be paid more for it. On the other are tech companies such as Facebook and Google, which argue that they funnel viewers and advertising revenue to media outlets, and free-speech advocates, who say that regulating the internet would set a dangerous precedent and limit access to information. That battle flared up in Europe on Thursday.

Content-hungry bidders circle ‘Big Brother’ maker Endemol.  Several bidders, including Liberty Global, are preparing offers for TV production company Endemol Shine, maker of classic reality show ‘Big Brother’ and the dystopian ‘Black Mirror’ dramas, before an initial deadline. ITV, RTL Group’s FremantleMedia and Lions Gate Entertainment are also eyeing Netherlands-based Endemol, sources close to the matter said, in a deal that comes as the rise of streaming giants Netflix and Amazon Prime has thrown the industry into turmoil.

A Record $2.5 Trillion in Mergers Were Announced in the First Half of 2018.  More than $2.5 trillion in mergers were announced during the first half of the year, as fears of Silicon Valley’s growing ambitions helped drive a record run of deal-making. Four of the 10 biggest deals were struck in part to fend off competition from the largest technology companies as the value of acquisitions announced during the first six months of the year increased 61 percent from the same period in 2017, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters. That has put mergers in 2018 on pace to surpass $5 trillion, which would top 2015 as the largest yearly total on record.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, General

    July 2, 2018

    The Antitrust Week In Review

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

    Supreme Court Sides With American Express on Merchant Fees.  American Express did not violate the antitrust laws by insisting in its contracts with merchants that they do nothing to encourage patrons to use other cards, the Supreme Court ruled last week. The decision has implications not only for what one brief called “an astronomical number of retail transactions” but also for other kinds of markets, notably ones on the internet, in which services link consumers and businesses. Such “two-sided platforms,” the court said, require special and seemingly more forgiving antitrust scrutiny.

    U.S. rate-rigging payouts top $500 million as final banks settle.  Investors have reached $96 million in settlements with the final five defendants in private U.S. litigation accusing banks of rigging a key interest rate benchmark in the global derivatives market, boosting the total payout to more than $500 million. BNP Paribas SA and Morgan Stanley will each pay $33.5 million, Nomura Holdings Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. will each pay $8.75 million, and brokerage ICAP Capital Markets LLC will pay $11.5 million, according to filings in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Upon receiving court approval, the settlements would increase the total recovered from 14 banks plus ICAP to $504.5 million.

    Disney’s Bid for Fox Clears US Antitrust Hurdle.  The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday won U.S. antitrust approval for its $71.3 billion bid for Twenty-First Century Fox’s entertainment assets. Disney must first sell its 22 regional sports networks, the Department of Justice said. The company has 90 days to sell the networks, with an option to extend for another 90 days.

    Visa, Mastercard close to settle issues over card-swipe fees – WSJ.  Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are close to settling a long-running antitrust lawsuit with merchants over the fees they pay while they accept card payments, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. Under the settlement, Visa, Mastercard and a number of banks that issue debit and credit cards including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. would pay the merchants around $6.5 billion, the report said on.wsj.com/2Kx4Wby, citing some of the people. It is not clear how the payment would be split up among the card networks and the issuing banks, according to the report

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      June 25, 2018

      The Antitrust Week In Review

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

      New FTC chair wants to look at market power of big internet companies.  Joseph Simons, the new chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), said on Wednesday that the agency would keep a close eye on big tech companies that dominate the internet. Simons said the power of the big tech platforms – none of which he cited by name – raised new questions about competition and privacy. “It makes it very appropriate for it to be the subject of hearings and for us to get input on that,” he said at a question session with reporters. Controversies surrounding Facebook and Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, have led to calls for the FTC to look more closely at whether these companies use their market power to hurt potential rivals.

      Hawaii, Japan Airlines Seek OK to Coordinate Flights.  Hawaiian Airlines and Japan Airlines have submitted paperwork seeking to join forces to potentially bring hundreds of thousands of more people to Hawaii. The airlines have recently filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Japanese government requesting immunity from antitrust laws to create a joint venture, West Hawaii Today reported. The partnership would allow the companies to coordinate flight schedules and share certain costs and revenues as well as work together on marketing and advertising, the airlines said in the filings.

      U.S. top court mulls Apple’s App Store commissions in antitrust case.  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up Apple Inc.’s bid to escape a lawsuit accusing it of breaking federal antitrust laws by monopolizing the market for iPhone software applications and causing consumers to pay more than they should. The justices said they would hear Apple’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that revived the proposed class-action lawsuit by iPhone buyers over commissions that the Cupertino, California-based technology company receives through its App Store. The case could expand the threat of antitrust damages against companies in the rapidly growing field of electronic commerce, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars annually in U.S. retail sales.

      EU sees signs of improvement after Google antitrust shopping case.  It is too early to judge Google’s reforms in response to an antitrust case over online shopping, though there are signs some rivals are benefiting, Europe’s competition chief said. The comments from European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager come amid calls from Google’s competitors for her to take more drastic action against the world’s most popular internet search engine. A year after being hit with a record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.8 billion) fine by the European Commission, Google has yet to create a level playing field, according to rivals such as British comparison shopping sites Foundem and Kelkoo and others in the travel search, digital mapping and publishing markets.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        June 18, 2018

        The Antitrust Week In Review

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

        AT&T Antitrust Win May Herald New Wave of Media Mergers.  Brace yourself for a likely new era of media megamergers. AT&T’s victory over the government’s attempt to block its $85 billion takeover of Time Warner underscores just how much the way people watch — and pay for — TV has changed. It also highlights how corporate America wants to adapt to deal with its new environment. In short: Bigger is better.

        Trump gets win at U.S. Supreme Court in China antitrust case.  The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration and against China on Thursday on a disputed aspect of their fraught trade relationship, throwing out a lower court ruling that had allowed two Chinese vitamin C makers to escape $148 million in damages for violating American antitrust law. In a case that brought the trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies before the top U.S. court, the justices ruled 9-0 that the lower court gave too much deference to Chinese government filings explaining China’s regulatory policy. The justices sent the case back for reconsideration by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2016 threw out the damages won by two American companies that buy vitamin C.

        Comcast’s Pursuit of Fox Will Face Hurdles, Despite AT&T’s Victory.  In the coming days, Comcast will most likely unveil its takeover bid for most of 21st Century Fox, challenging The Walt Disney Company for the same Fox entertainment assets. Fox had turned down Comcast last year, worried that the cable giant’s bid — even though it was much higher than Disney’s — could be blocked by regulators. But that concern was lessened on Tuesday afternoon when a federal judge approved AT&T’s $85.4 billion deal for Time Warner. While AT&T’s victory over the Justice Department means that Comcast now faces fewer regulatory issues in its pursuit of Fox, obstacles remain.

        Apple, Qualcomm battle over possible ban on some U.S. iPhone imports.  The staff of the U.S. International Trade Commission on Friday recommended that a trade judge find that Apple Inc. infringed at least one of Qualcomm Inc.’s patents, a move that could lead to blocking the import of some iPhones. The San Diego chipmaker filed a complaint against Apple nearly a year ago, asking the commission to ban the import of iPhones containing rival chipmaker Intel Corp.’s so-called modem chips, which help mobile phones connect to wireless data networks. At a trial in Washington that started on Friday, the ITC staff said Apple violated one of Qualcomm’s patents around battery-saving technology.

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          June 11, 2018

          The Antitrust Week In Review

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

          U.S. antitrust official says worries over limiting vertical deals ‘misplaced’.  A top antitrust official at the U.S. Justice Department attempted to reassure investors on Thursday that worries that regulators would crack down on proposed combinations of two companies on a supply chain — known as vertical mergers — were overblown.  Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, said that most proposed transactions were either good for consumers or neutral.  But the department’s decision in November to sue to stop AT&T Inc, which owns DirecTV, from buying Time Warner Inc. made investors question whether other vertical deals might also meet with skepticism from antitrust enforcers.

          Exclusive: U.S. Justice Department probes T-Mobile-Sprint merger effect on smaller wireless companies – sources.  The U.S. Department of Justice is examining how the proposed merger between T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. could affect prices for smaller wireless operators, according to two people familiar with the matter.  A T-Mobile and Sprint merger would eliminate competition between the two carriers that have been the dominant players in selling network access to wireless companies that often serve pre-paid or price-conscious consumers, and could lead to higher prices for those users.  The Justice Department, which is evaluating T-Mobile’s $26 billion deal to buy Sprint, has been speaking with small wireless operators that buy access to the major wireless networks at wholesale rates, and is seeking their opinions about the merger, the people said, who declined to be named because the talks are confidential.

          Comcast to Win Unconditional EU Okay for Sky Bid: Sources.  U.S. cable company Comcast is set to gain unconditional EU antitrust approval for its bid to buy European pay-TV company Sky, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday. The world’s biggest entertainment company is battling Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox for Sky.  The media mogul bid’s to buy all of Sky has been delayed by politicians and regulators worried about the power of the enlarged media group. The European Commission, which is scheduled to decide on Comcast’s offer by June 15, did not respond to a request for comment by email. It cleared without conditions Fox’s bid for Sky in April last year.

          Google Faces EU Antitrust Fine Over Android Case in July: Sources.  Google is expected to be hit with a second EU antitrust fine in mid-July for using its dominant Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals, three people familiar with the matter said.  The European Commission, which has been investigating the case involving the unit of Alphabet since 2015, could issue its decision in the week of July 9, although the timing might change.  As a deterrent to others, the EU penalty is likely to top the record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.8 billion) fine handed out to Google last year for unfairly favoring its shopping service, sources told Reuters last year.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

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