January 29, 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.

E.U. Fines Qualcomm $1.2 Billion Over Apple Deal.  European antitrust officials hammered Qualcomm with a $1.2 billion fine on Wednesday, saying the American chip maker, whose technology underpins much of the world’s mobile phone industry, had abused its dominant market position to squeeze out competitors. The penalty of 997 million euros follows a two-year investigation and is the latest move by regional regulators against a United States tech giant. Officials in Brussels say that Qualcomm offered financial incentives to Apple so that it would buy equipment solely from the chip maker. Qualcomm immediately said it would appeal the ruling, which would probably extend the case, originally announced in the summer of 2015, for years to come.

Murdoch’s Bid for Full Control of Sky Is Dealt a Blow by U.K. Regulator.  Rupert Murdoch’s yearslong effort to secure an even larger presence in the international media market suffered a new setback on Tuesday, when a British regulator provisionally rejected 21st Century Fox’s bid to acquire full control of Sky, the British satellite broadcaster. Mr. Murdoch has made multiple attempts to acquire the part of Sky not already under his control, only to find himself thwarted by a phone-hacking scandal and the British authorities. The regulatory decision announced on Tuesday was the latest blow to 21st Century Fox’s bid to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not now own.

BNP Paribas unit pleads guilty in U.S. to currency rigging, fined $90 mln.  A unit of BNP Paribas SA agreed to plead guilty and pay a $90 million criminal fine for rigging foreign currency prices, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday. BNP Paribas USA admitted to having conspired to suppress competition by fixing prices for Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African currencies from September 2011 to July 2013, violating U.S. antitrust law. The Justice Department said the conspiracy involved price manipulation on an electronic trading platform through the creation of bogus trades, coordinated trading, and agreements on what prices to quote to specific customers, among other means.

Judge orders U.S. government to seek consent to give data to AT&T, Time Warner.  The judge hearing the Justice Department’s lawsuit to stop AT&T from buying Time Warner ordered the department to seek permission to give the two companies access to rivals’ pricing data. Judge Richard Leon, living up to a pledge made during a hearing, ordered the Justice Department, which has the data, to ask the companies that gave it to the government for consent to pass it on to AT&T and Time Warner’s legal team. The Justice Department sued in November to stop AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. wireless company, from buying Time Warner for $85 billion because of concerns that it could raise prices for rivals and pay-TV subscribers as well as hamper the development of online video. Trial is set for March 19.

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Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    October 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.

    Bayer: more antitrust asset sales on the cards after BASF deal.  Bayer said it expected antitrust authorities to make the planned acquisition of Monsanto conditional on more asset sales after agreeing to sell seed and herbicide businesses for 5.9 billion euro ($7 billion) to BASF.  “By no means did the deal that was signed with BASF constitute the totality of antitrust divestitures … The agencies will render their verdict on what the necessary remedies are.  It’s probably a first step and somewhat more is to come,” Chief Executive Werner Baumann told an analyst call on Thursday after the release of third-quarter results.

    Price-Fixing Inquiry Moves From BMW to Daimler and Volkswagen.  European Union investigators searched the offices of the German automakers Daimler and Volkswagen — the second such action in recent days as part of an inquiry into allegations of illegal collusion by the country’s car giants.  Regulators are looking into whether Germany’s three major vehicle manufacturers — BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen — worked together to fix the prices of various vehicle equipment, including design aspects that help control emissions.  The searches came as the companies face a backlash over their efforts to evade rules on diesel emissions.

    CVS makes more than $66 billion bid for Aetna: sources.  U.S. pharmacy operator CVS Health Corp has made an offer to acquire No. 3 U.S. health insurer Aetna Inc for more than $200 per share, or over $66 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.  A deal would merge one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits managers and pharmacy operators with one of its oldest health insurers, whose far-reaching business ranges from employer healthcare to government plans nationwide.  A tie-up with Aetna could give CVS more leverage in its price negotiations with drug makers. But it would also subject it to more antitrust scrutiny.

    Fiat Chrysler sues shippers over alleged price fixing.  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has lodged a complaint with a U.S. regulator seeking “reparations” from a group of shipping companies from Asia, Europe and South America that admitted to fixing prices for shipping vehicles, according to documents made public on Monday.  The automaker wants the Federal Maritime Commission to order payments from Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS and its sister company EUKOR Car Carriers Inc, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd, Compania Sud Americana de Vapores VAP.SN, Hoegh Autoliners AS and affiliated companies.  The auto maker said it and its corporate predecessors have purchased “hundreds of millions of dollars” in delivery services and none of the firms have compensated it or other victims “of their illegal activities.”

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    Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      November 17, 2016

      New York Attorney General Scores For NFL Fans With NFL Agreement To Drop Mandatory Price Floor On Ticket Resales

      By James J. Kovacs

      New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced a multi-state settlement with the National Football League (“NFL”) eliminating the NFL’s league-wide usage of a “mandatory price floor” in the secondary ticket market.

      NFL rules had required all 32 teams to impose a mandatory price floor on secondary market ticket sales, not only on the NFL-owned Ticket Exchange website, but also on third-party websites sanctioned by the league as secondary market ticket retailers. Under the NFL’s price floor policy, an official seller was not permitted to list tickets for resale at a price lower than the face-value of the ticket.  As a result, NFL fans were forced to pay artificially inflated prices for tickets across the country.

      While the mandatory price floor was halted during the investigation, the settlement requires that the NFL will “not reinstate” the league-wide price floor for 10 years. In addition to providing for a small monetary payment to be made to the settling states, the settlement also requires the NFL to refrain from implementing ticketing technologies designed to eliminate competition on the secondary ticket exchanges—a provision which protects resale sites such as StubHub, which have seen their market share squeezed by ticketing rules.  Constantine Cannon has represented StubHub in connection with its challenges to practices that restrain trade in the secondary ticket market.

      The NFL settlement is the latest action taken by New York Attorney General’s Office against ticketing practices that it has alleged are unfair and raise costs to consumers. The office issued report earlier this year outlining the harms of mandatory price floors and ticketing fees designed to raise ticket prices on New Yorkers. In June, New York passed legislation proposed by Attorney General Schneiderman to increase penalties on the use of “ticket bots,” programs designed to scoop up large amount of tickets and then resell at higher prices.

      New York’s NFL mandatory price floor investigation and settlement was joined by the Attorneys General of the states of Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

       

      Edited by Gary J. Malone

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      Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

        August 15, 2016

        The Antitrust Week In Review

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

        South Korea says investigating whether Google broke antitrust laws.  South Korea’s antitrust regulator said on Friday it is looking into whether Google has violated the country’s anticompetition laws, acknowledging formal scrutiny of the global internet search company for the first time.  The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) disclosed the investigation in a brief statement, without commenting on the nature of the probe nor any potential antitrust violations.  A person familiar with the matter told Reuters last month the KFTC inspected Google’s Seoul headquarters in July.

        Google Fined for Breaking Russian Antitrust Rules With Android.  Russian antitrust officials fined Google $6.8 million on Thursday, a relatively small penalty that nevertheless represents the latest in a growing list of global regulatory problems for the American search giant.  Russian authorities ruled last year that Google had abused its market position with Android, its mobile operating system, by favoring some of its digital services over those of rivals, including the Russian company Yandex.  As part of its ruling, the Federation Antimonopoly Service said that Google’s rivals had not been able to include their own offerings, like digital maps or search, in the Android operating system that powers a majority of smartphones and other mobile devices in Russia.

        Aluminum price-fixing claims rejected by U.S. appeals court.  A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of nationwide antitrust litigation accusing banks and commodity companies of conspiring to drive up aluminum prices by reducing supply, forcing them to overpay.  By a 3-0 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan said so-called commercial end users and consumer end users lacked standing to sue because their alleged antitrust injuries were too far removed from the alleged misconduct.  The plaintiffs had accused Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the mining company Glencore Plc , and various commodity trading, metals mining and metals warehousing companies of having colluded from 2009 to 2012 to rig prices by hoarding inventory.

        Judge sets Aetna-Humana antitrust trial date for Dec. 5.  The federal judge hearing the U.S. Justice Department’s case to block Aetna Inc’s $34 billion purchase of Humana Inc has set a trial date for Dec. 5, 2016, later than the companies had requested.  Aetna and Humana are fighting the Department of Justice’s lawsuit asserting that combining the two companies will harm consumers and raise prices.

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        Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          February 29, 2016

          The Antitrust Week In Review

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

          Dow Chemical settles price-fixing case after Justice Scalia’s death. Dow Chemical has agreed to pay $835 million to settle a decade-long lawsuit on price fixing, saying that the death of Justice Antonin Scalia lessened its chances of overturning the verdict at the Supreme Court.  Dow, which is in the process of merging with Dupont, said on Friday that it decided to settle, without admitting any wrongdoing, citing “growing political uncertainties due to recent events within the Supreme Court.”  Dow had filed a petition in the Supreme Court arguing that a 2013 class-action judgment that Dow had conspired to artificially inflate polyurethane prices violated class action law in multiple ways, particularly with respect to two rulings authored by Justice Scalia, one in 2011 favoring Wal-Mart Stores and another in 2013 favoring Comcast.

          Honeywell Persists in Pursuit of United Technologies. Honeywell has made clear that it is not walking away from its proposed takeover of United Technologies, as a potential battle between the industrial giants became more public on Friday.  In publishing an 11-page pitch to United Technologies on the merits of a merger, Honeywell sought to sway shareholders of its competitor.  Later on Friday, United Technologies issued its latest rebuttal, again contending that a merger of the two—which would yield a nearly $160 billion conglomerate whose offerings run from building cooling systems to advanced jet engines—would never survive antitrust scrutiny.

          EU halts Halliburton, Baker Hughes deal review, awaits details. European Union antitrust regulators have halted their scrutiny of U.S. oilfield services provider Halliburton’s proposed takeover of Baker Hughes because the companies failed to provide some details of the $35 billion deal.  “This is a standard procedure on merger investigations which is activated if the notifying parties do not provide an important piece of information that the Commission has requested from them,” European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso stated.  The EU competition authority will set a new deadline for its decision when it has the required information from the companies.  Antitrust regulators are worried that higher prices and less innovation may follow the proposed merger.

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          Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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