August 7, 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.

Morgan Stanley, RBC, others settle currency rigging lawsuit in U.S.  Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada and three other banks agreed to pay a combined $111.2 million to settle U.S. litigation accusing them of rigging prices in the roughly $5 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market.  The preliminary settlements were detailed in filings late Friday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and require a judge’s approval.  Fourteen of the 16 banks that were sued have settled, for a total payout of $2.12 billion, court papers show.

EU Sends Charge Sheet to Visa Over Inter-Regional Fees.  The European Commission said on Thursday it had sent a charge sheet to credit card group Visa over the fees merchants have to pay when customers from outside the bloc make purchases in the European Union.  In 2014, the Commission ended another investigation into the company’s fee structure when Visa Europe agreed to cap the transaction fees it charged.  The Commission said it was now looking at so-called inter-regional interchange fees, those charged to merchants when accepting Visa cards issued outside the European Economic Area (EEA), for example when tourists make purchases in the EU.

Starz: AT&T’s Time Warner Deal Would Steer Customers Away From Us.  The premium movie channel Starz criticized AT&T’s plan to buy Time Warner on Wednesday, saying the megadeal would give AT&T the clout to steer customers away from Starz and toward its own premium channels.  The $85 billion deal, which was announced in October, would give AT&T control of such Time Warner properties as HBO and CNN, the film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets.

BMW reassured top staff about cartel allegations: sources.  Germany’s BMW has told its top managers that regulators probing reports of collusion among German carmakers will find the allegations hard to justify, two sources familiar with the matter said.  German magazine Der Spiegel reported last month that BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Audi, and Volkswagen may have used industry committee meetings to fix the size of tanks for AdBlue, a liquid used to treat nitrogen oxide in diesel emissions.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    July 31, 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.

    For Alphabet, a Record Fine is Both a Footnote and a Warning.  Not many companies can turn a $2.7 billion fine into a financial footnote.  But that is what Google’s parent company, Alphabet, did with its quarterly earnings.  However, while its business hums along, Alphabet faces a challenge that has little to do with its day-to-day performance.  A month after the European Commission handed down a record $2.7 billion penalty against Google for what it said was “illegal conduct” in unfairly promoting its own shopping services over competitors, Democrats in the United States are calling for more antitrust oversight of big companies.

    Banks must face interest rate swap class action -U.S. judge.  U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan said 11 banks, including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., must defend against claims that from 2013 to 2016 they boycotted three upstart electronic platforms for swaps trading, hoping to destroy them.  Investors seeking damages in the proposed class action said banks did this to preserve their 70 percent market share and boost profit by making trading more costly.  Interest rate swaps let parties exchange future interest payments, typically by exchanging a fixed rate for a floating rate, to manage risk or bet on whether rates will rise or fall.

    German Carmakers Face Potential New Scandal Over Antitrust Issues.  Germany’s high-end carmakers face a potentially destructive new scandal after European antitrust authorities said that they were looking into allegations that Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW colluded illegally to hold down the prices of crucial technology, including emissions equipment.  If proven, the allegations threaten to further damage the country’s reputation for engineering excellence.  That reputation has already been badly tarnished by Volkswagen’s admission that it illegally installed software in its diesel-powered cars to evade standards for reducing smog.

    EU antitrust regulators raided Clariant, Celanese, others.  EU antitrust regulators raided several ethylene purchasing companies in May, including Swiss chemicals maker Clariant and U.S. rival Celanese, over concerns the firms may have participated in a cartel.  Clariant confirmed the EU investigation on Wednesday while Celanese said some of its units were being investigated.  Ethylene is used to make various chemical and plastic products.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      July 24, 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.

      Four Apple contractors accuse Qualcomm of antitrust violations.  iPhone chip supplier Qualcomm Inc. faces a new set of antitrust allegations from a group of four companies that assemble the iPhone and other products on behalf of Apple Inc.  Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Wistron Corp, Compal Electronics Inc and Pegatron Corp alleged that Qualcomm violated two sections of the Sherman Act, a U.S. antitrust law.  The accusations, made in a filing late on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, are counterclaims to a Qualcomm lawsuit filed in May seeking to force the contractors to pay Qualcomm license fees that Apple directed them to stop paying.

      Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan to Pay $148 Million to End Yen Libor Cases in U.S.  Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have agreed to pay a combined $148 million to end private U.S. antitrust litigation claiming they conspired with other banks to manipulate the yen Libor and Euroyen Tibor benchmark interest rates.  The preliminary settlements, totalling $77 million for Deutsche Bank and $71 million for JPMorgan, were detailed in filings late Friday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and require a judge’s approval.  They followed similar settlements last year with Citigroup Inc. and HSBC Holdings Plc totalling $23 million and $35 million, respectively.

      U.S. judge rejects class actions over Internet music prices.  A Manhattan federal judge on Tuesday said consumers accusing several big music companies of conspiring to inflate prices of music sold over the Internet and on compact discs cannot pursue their claims in class actions.  U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska’s 89-page decision is a victory for Sony Corp., Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and various affiliates in the 11-year-old lawsuit, which the judge said has been delayed by extensive disputes over evidence.  Consumers accused the defendants of taking unfair advantage of their 80 percent share of the U.S. market for online music, and that by making such music “less attractive” to buy were able to drive up CD prices.

      Qualcomm loses appeal against EU threat of daily fine.  U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm faces the threat of a daily fine of 580,000 euros ($665,000) for failing to provide EU antitrust regulators with information after losing an appeal against the penalty in a European Union court on Monday.  Qualcomm, which was charged by the European Commission for using anti-competitive methods to squeeze out British phone software maker Icera, last month asked the Luxembourg-based General Court to suspend the order.  The Commission welcomed the court verdict, while Qualcomm declined to comment.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        July 17, 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. attorney general urged to consider blocking AT&T deal for Time Warner.  Seven consumer advocacy groups wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday to ask him to consider blocking AT&T’s plan to buy Time Warner on the grounds that it will lead to higher prices and slow innovation in showing video online.  Common Cause, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Public Knowledge and other groups echoed other critics of the deal, including some lawmakers, who say that the $85.4 billion deal would give AT&T, owner of DirecTV, the ability to withhold Time Warner’s content from other outlets and hurt the move to show television shows and movies on the Internet.

        Nichicon to Plead Guilty in U.S. to Price-Fixing, Pay $42 Million Fine.  Japan’s Nichicon Corp. will plead guilty to fixing the prices of electrolytic capacitors sold in the United States and elsewhere, and will pay a $42 million fine, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.  The price-fixing conspiracy ran from September 1997 to 2014, and Nichicon participated from about 2001 to 2011, the Justice Department said in its complaint, filed in federal court in San Francisco. Electrolytic capacitors are used in a range of electronic products, including computers, televisions and car engines, to store and regulate electric current.

        Newspapers to bid for antitrust exemption to tackle Google and Facebook.  The news industry is to band together to seek a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in an effort to fend off growing competition from Facebook and Google.  Traditional competitors including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as a host of smaller print and online publications, will temporarily set aside their differences this week and appeal to federal lawmakers to let them negotiate collectively with the technology giants to safeguard the industry.

        FanDuel, DraftKings scrap troubled merger.  Daily fantasy sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings scrapped a plan to merge on Thursday following a legal challenge by U.S. antitrust enforcers.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said in June that it would seek to stop the deal because the combined company would control more than 90 percent of the U.S. market for paid daily fantasy sports contests

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

          July 10, 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: EU considers record fine as panel checks Google Android case – sources.  EU antitrust regulators are weighing another record fine against Google over its Android mobile operating system and have set up a panel of experts to give a second opinion on the case, two people familiar with the matter said.  Assuming the panel agrees with the initial case team’s conclusions, it could pave the way for the European Commission to issue a decision against Alphabet’s Google by the end of the year.  The Commission in April last year charged Google with using its dominant Android mobile operating system to shut out rivals following a complaint by lobby group FairSearch, U.S.-based ad-blocking and privacy firm Disconnect Inc., Portuguese apps store Aptoide and Russia’s Yandex.

          Antitrust Regulators Sign Off on Cabela’s Sale to Bass Pro.  U.S. antitrust regulators have ended their investigation into Bass Pro Shops’ $4 billion deal to buy Cabela’s, Cabela’s said Wednesday.  The Nebraska-based chain said the Federal Trade Commission signed off on the deal earlier this week, but banking regulators still haven’t approved one part of the transaction.

          Trump missing chance to steer antitrust as key FTC slots go unfilled.  The White House is passing up a chance to steer policy on everything from mergers to advertising as it delays choosing from three front-runners to name a permanent chair for the Federal Trade Commission.  The FTC, which shares the work of antitrust enforcement with the Justice Department and pursues companies accused of deceptive advertising, is currently headed by acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, who was named on Jan. 25.

          Broadcom wins U.S. antitrust consent to buy Brocade: FTC.  Chipmaker Broadcom Limited has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy Brocade Communications Systems, the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday.  The $5.5 billion deal, which already has won approval in Europe and Japan, is the latest in the chip industry as companies bulk up in response to growing demand for chips in connected devices and cars.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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