November 20, 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.

With AT&T and Time Warner, Battle Lines Form for an Epic Antitrust Case.  If the government goes to court to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, as seems increasingly likely, it may well be the antitrust case of the decade, even without the claims of presidential meddling that have already engulfed the deal in partisan controversy.  A lawsuit by the Justice Department, along with its earlier, widely reported demands that AT&T sell either DirecTV or Turner Broadcasting to gain approval for the deal, would mark a radical departure from decades of antitrust enforcement policy, both in defining what is an unlawful anticompetitive merger and in fashioning a remedy to cure the problems.

Qualcomm-NXP ruling may be in 2018: EU competition commissioner.  A ruling on Qualcomm Inc.’s proposed $38 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors NV may come in 2018, European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday.  People familiar with the matter told Reuters in October that Qualcomm has offered to buy NXP without some of its patents in a bid to win EU antitrust regulatory approval.

Missouri Opens Antitrust Investigation Into Google.  Missouri’s attorney general has opened an investigation into whether Google’s business practices violate its consumer protection and antitrust laws amid growing concern over the influence of powerful technology companies.  Josh Hawley, Missouri’s attorney general, said on Monday that his office had issued a subpoena to Google to seek information into the collection and use of users’ private information, the use of other content providers’ information on its sites and potential bias in search engine results.

Japanese regulators raid Airbnb over suspected antitrust practices.  Japanese fair trade regulators raided last month the offices of Airbnb Inc over suspected violations of antitrust laws, the home rental site said on Friday, denying any wrongdoing.  The Japan Fair Trade Commission carried out an on-site inspection of Airbnb and the company is cooperating with the regulators’ investigation, Airbnb Japan said.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    November 13, 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.

    AT&T Deal Puts Trump’s Antitrust Cop at Center of a Political Storm.  A year ago, Makan Delrahim predicted that AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner would be approved by regulators.  “I don’t see this as a major antitrust problem,” Mr. Delrahim, then a law professor, said to a Canadian television network.  Now, five weeks into his job as the top antitrust regulator at the Justice Department, Mr. Delrahim has taken a different position.  The department has threatened to block the deal in court unless AT&T sells off major assets.

    Eyewear mega deal could hurt U.S. consumers, but still be approved.  The world’s biggest eyeglass frame maker is planning to merge with the largest lens maker in a tie-up U.S. antitrust experts fear will be bad news for consumers, but could still be approved.  France’s Essilor, the prescription lens maker, has asked U.S. regulators to bless its merger with Italy’s Luxottica, the leading frame maker, to create a company that would produce everything from Ray-Bans to Giorgio Armani frames, and be the top U.S. eyeglass retail outlet as well as a leading provider of vision insurance.  No eyeglass company in the United States – the biggest market for both firms – would come close.

    Bargaining chip?  China seen closely scrutinizing Qualcomm, Broadcom deal.  A potential mega-merger between chipmaker Broadcom Ltd. and U.S. rival Qualcomm Inc is likely to face stern scrutiny in China, antitrust lawyers say, amid a strategic push by Beijing into semiconductors.  Broadcom has made an unsolicited $103 billion bid for Qualcomm, aimed at creating a $200-billion-plus behemoth that could reshape the industry at the heart of mobile phone hardware.  But Chinese regulatory approval could be a hold-up.  Beijing and Washington have sparred over technology deals, including in chips, with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States knocking back a number of takeovers involving Chinese firms this year.

    EU resumes Bayer-Monsanto deal review; new deadline March 5.  The European Commission has resumed its antitrust review of Bayer’s planned takeover of U.S. seed maker Monsanto after the companies were given time to provide more information.  The new deadline for the Commission to decide over the deal is now March 5, the antitrust regulator said on Monday.  Bayer reiterated it was aiming to wrap up the deal in early 2018.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

      November 6, 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.

      U.S. and AT&T discuss conditions for approval of Time Warner deal.  AT&T Inc. and the U.S. Department of Justice are discussing conditions the No. 2 wireless carrier needs to meet in order to win government antitrust approval for its acquisition of Time Warner Inc., sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Thursday.  The $85.4 billion deal, unveiled in October 2016, is opposed by an array of consumer groups and competitors on the grounds that it would give the wireless company too much power over the media it would carry on its own network.  Wall Street largely believes the transaction will go through, but its success is not assured, and the issue has become a political battleground.

      States Seek to Expand Lawsuit Against Generic Drugmakers.  Connecticut’s attorney general and 45 of his colleagues are seeking to expand a federal antitrust lawsuit against generic drugmakers to include more manufacturers and medications, as well as senior executives at two companies.  Led by Connecticut, the states sought a federal court’s permission Tuesday to widen their complaint, which alleges a number of illegal agreements among 18 manufacturers to fix prices and divvy up the market for specific generic drugs including treatments for high blood pressure, arthritis and asthma.  Mylan N.V., one of the drugmakers named in the suit, said it has investigated the allegations thoroughly and “found no evidence of price fixing.”

      FTC judge rules against 1-800 Contacts on antitrust charges.  A Federal Trade Commission judge has ruled against the online seller 1-800 Contacts, which the agency accused of hammering out deals with rivals that made it harder for consumers to comparison shop, the agency said on Monday.  The FTC accused the company of reaching agreements with 14 other online contact lens retailers which required the companies to refrain from advertising to consumers who had searched online for 1-800 Contacts.  1-800 Contacts, in exchange, agreed to not advertise to people who searched for the rivals’ names.  The agreements hampered price-conscious consumers from finding rival contact lens sellers and checking their costs, the ruling said.

      Entercom wins U.S. antitrust OK to buy CBS Radio with conditions.  Entercom Communications Corp won U.S. antitrust approval to buy CBS Radio Inc. on condition that it divest 13 radio stations in Massachusetts and California, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.  Entercom will divest an additional five stations as part of a deal to win approval from the Federal Communications Commission, said a source close to the proposed transaction who requested anonymity to protect business relationships.  The proposed merger, announced in February, would allow CBS Corp. to combine its radio business with Entercom to create the second-largest U.S. radio broadcaster by revenue.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

        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

          October 9, 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.

          Qualcomm offers EU concessions over $38 billion NXP takeover bid.  U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm has offered concessions in an attempt to allay EU antitrust concerns over its $38-billion bid for NXP Semiconductors, the largest ever in the semiconductor industry.  Qualcomm, which supplies chips to Android smartphone makers and Apple, submitted its proposal on Oct. 5, a filing on the European Commission site showed on Monday, without providing details.  The EU competition enforcer, which suspended the deadline for its decision on Aug. 17 for a second time while waiting for information data from Qualcomm, said it would set a new deadline once the company has complied with its request.

          Shire sues Allergan in U.S. over dry eye drug.  Allergan Plc has been sued by Shire Plc for allegedly scheming to block doctors from prescribing its new treatment for dry eye disease.  In a complaint filed with the federal court in Newark, New Jersey, Shire accused Allergan of violating antitrust laws to preserve its roughly 90 percent share in Medicare prescription drug plans for its older and “clinically inferior” dry eye drug Restasis, and block prescriptions of Shire’s rival drug Xiidra.  “Quite simply, Allergan has and will continue to use bundled discounts, exclusive dealing, coercion and interference to unlawfully ‘block’ Shire from competing with it, and to maintain its monopoly in the Part D market at all costs,” Shire said, referring to the Medicare drug plans.

          Talent Management Group: Dismiss Ex-Football Star’s Lawsuit.  A federal antitrust lawsuit linking a talent management company to alleged improper use of ex-Ohio State athletes’ photos should be tossed out because there’s no evidence the company did anything wrong, according to a court filing.  IMG Worldwide, Inc. and related entities are also backing Ohio State’s request to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying the university is immune from such legal action, an IMG attorney said in the filing Monday.  The lawsuit “does not specifically allege that IMG did anything in connection with any alleged wrongdoing, or is about to do anything wrongful that should be prevented,” said Joseph Castrodale, a Cleveland lawyer representing IMG.

          EU conducts inspections over limits to bank account access.  The European Commission said on Friday it had conducted inspections in some EU states into banks’ alleged anti-competitive practices in limiting rival financial firms from gaining legitimate online access to their customers’ data.  The Commission said in a statement it had “concerns” that the companies involved “may have engaged in anti-competitive practices in breach of EU antitrust rules.”  It did not name any company.  It said that banks could have prevented non-bank competitors from gaining online access to account information of their customers to provide financial services, in spite of having obtained prior authorization from the customers.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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