February 12, 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.

EU regulators to examine Apple buy of UK music discovery app Shazam.  EU antitrust regulators will examine iPhone maker Apple’s acquisition of British music discovery app Shazam following a request from seven European countries.  Apple has said that Shazam, an app that lets users identify songs by pointing a smart phone at the audio source, would be a natural fit with its Apple Music streaming service.  The EU antitrust enforcer said that based on preliminary data provided by seven countries, the deal may have a significant adverse effect on competition in Europe.

India imposes $21.1M fine on Google for antitrust practices.  Google is in trouble again, this time in India as the country’s antitrust watchdog accused the company of abusing its market dominance.  The search giant faces a fine of nearly 1.36 billion rupees (over $21.1 million) after the Competition Commission of India found it guilty of “search bias” in terms of online web search, which “causes harm” to its competitors and users, according to a statement published Thursday.  “Google was leveraging its dominance in the market for online general web search to strengthen its position in the market for online syndicate search services,” the CCI said in its statement.

Broadcom Raises Its Qualcomm Offer to $121 Billion.  Broadcom raised its takeover bid for the rival chip maker Qualcomm to about $121 billion, piling pressure on Qualcomm to agree to what would be the technology industry’s biggest-ever takeover and one that could affect the future of smartphones.  In offering $82 a share, up from about $70 previously, Broadcom raised the stakes a month before Qualcomm’s annual shareholder meeting, at which it hopes to unseat the entire board.  Broadcom’s move would create a tech giant whose products would be used in nearly all of the world’s smartphones.  Whether a deal goes ahead, however, remains an open question:  Qualcomm’s leadership fiercely opposes it, while analysts have said that even if shareholders approved the deal, it could be rejected on antitrust grounds.

Linde expects bigger antitrust hurdle for Praxair merger.  German industrial gases maker Linde said on Tuesday it expected it would have to make more divestments than initially planned to win antitrust approval for its $84 billion merger with Praxair.  But Linde said it would not have to sell businesses with revenues and earnings that exceeded the thresholds agreed with Praxair in their deal, which aims to create a global leader in industrial gases.  If regulators demanded the disposal of businesses with more than $3.7 billion in sales or $1.1 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, either party could withdraw without penalty.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    February 5, 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. agencies probe Apple over slowing iPhones: Bloomberg.  The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple Inc. violated securities laws concerning its disclosures that it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.  “We have received questions from some government agencies and we are responding to them,” an Apple spokeswoman told Reuters.  “We have never, and would never, do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades,” she added.

    2 More Lawsuits Accuse Chicken Producers of Fixing Prices.  Two major food distributors have filed their own federal lawsuits accusing Tyson Foods and other major chicken producers of fixing prices, but the industry denies any wrongdoing.  The lawsuits filed this week in Illinois by Sysco Corp. and US Foods Holding Corp. join several other lawsuits pending against the chicken producers.  The allegations date back at least to a 2016 lawsuit filed by New York-based Maplevale Farms.

    Exclusive: Senator Schumer recommends his chief counsel for Federal Trade Commission.  U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer has recommended that the White House nominate one of his top aides, Rebecca Slaughter, to the Federal Trade Commission, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.  Schumer is the Senate Minority Leader and Slaughter is his chief counsel who has worked for him since 2009, according to her LinkedIn page. She graduated from Yale Law School in 2008.

    EU extends antitrust study of Bayer bid for Monsanto to March 12.  European Union antitrust investigators said they had extended their investigation into Bayer’s bid for Monsanto by five working days until March 12, without giving a reason.  The $66 billion deal would make Bayer the world’s largest pesticides and seeds company, an outcome already facing strong criticism from environmentalists and some farm groups.

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

      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

        January 22, 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.

        FTC investigating Broadcom for antitrust practices.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether chipmaker Broadcom Ltd. engaged in anticompetitive tactics in negotiations with customers, the company said on Wednesday.  The investigation comes as Broadcom pursues a hostile takeover of Qualcomm in a $103 billion deal.  Since the FTC would likely review any merger for anticompetitive practices, the current probe could make regulatory approval more challenging.  Broadcom was recently issued subpoenas that seek an extensive amount of information, according to the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report the probe on Wednesday.

        Lawsuit in U.S. Accuses Nine Banks of Rigging Canadian Rate Benchmark.  Nine large banks, including six from Canada, have been accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to rig a Canadian rate benchmark to improve profits from derivatives trading.  The complaint, filed by a Colorado pension fund in U.S. District Court in Manhattan late on Friday, accused Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia and the other banks of suppressing the Canadian Dealer Offered Rate (CDOR) from Aug. 9, 2007, to June 30, 2014.  According to the Fire & Police Pension Association of Colorado, the banks hoped to reduce interest they would owe investors on CDOR-based derivatives transactions in the United States, including swaps and Canadian dollar futures contracts, and generate potentially billions of dollars of improper profit.

        EU antitrust regulators clear Qualcomm purchase of NXP.  EU antitrust regulators have approved U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm’s planned $38 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors subject to a series of commitments Qualcomm has made.  Qualcomm said the European Union clearance, along with approval earlier on Thursday from the Korea Fair Trade Commission, meant it now had eight of nine approvals, with just China remaining.  It said it was optimistic that would come soon.  Qualcomm, which supplies chips to Android smartphone makers and Apple, is set to become the leading supplier to the fast-growing automotive chip market following the deal, the largest-ever in the semiconductor industry.

        Judge overseeing AT&T, Time Warner merger trial hears document dispute.  AT&T, owner of DirecTV, is asking for documents from a long list of companies as part of preparation for a trial to determine if they will be allowed to buy movie and TV show maker Time Warner, their lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said in a pre-trial hearing on Friday.  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.  Daniel Petrocelli, who represents AT&T and Time Warner, said that his team had been unable to get data requested from third parties, who had said they no longer had some of it. He asked the government, which did have the data, to return it so it could be subpoenaed.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          January 16, 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.

          Live Nation Settles Suit With Ticketing Start-Up, Buying Its Assets.  Two years ago, Songkick, a ticketing start-up that operated out of a loft in Brooklyn, filed an antitrust suit against Live Nation Entertainment, the colossus of the concert business.  The David-and-Goliath suit included accusations of abuse of market power by Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary.  But on Friday, less than two weeks before the start of a trial, Live Nation announced that it had settled the suit for $110 million and an additional undisclosed sum to acquire some of Songkick’s remaining technology assets and patents.

          Department of Justice Probes Admissions Ethics Code.  The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether the ethics code of the National Association for College Admission Counseling violates federal antitrust law.  The department has sent information requests to NACAC and to professionals from various schools and colleges who were involved in drafting the new version of the ethics code, which was adopted last year.  The letter from the department, a copy of which has been obtained by Inside Higher Ed, states that the investigation pertains to a possible agreement “to restrain trade among colleges and universities in the recruitment of students.”

          Jaguar Land Rover Escapes Antitrust Suit Over Ban on Overseas Resale.  A federal judge has dismissed an antitrust suit challenging Jaguar Land Rover’s ban on overseas resale of vehicles it sells to U.S. customers.  The suit was brought on behalf of U.S. owners of Jaguars and Land Rovers, and asserts that they could resell their vehicles in China or Russia for three or four times their cost here if not for a no-export policy the company imposes on new car buyers.  The suit asserts that the vehicles’ manufacturer requires its U.S. dealers to enforce the policy, and dealers that fail to do so are given a reduced allocation of vehicles.  But the complaint fails because the plaintiff did not establish a concerted action by the defendants that produced anti-competitive effects within the relevant product and geographic markets, U.S. District Judge William Martini of the District of New Jersey ruled, dismissing the suit with prejudice.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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