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 3, 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.

        EU fines Google record $2.7 billion in first antitrust case. EU antitrust regulators hit Google with a record 2.42-billion-euro ($2.7 billion) fine, taking a tough line in the first of three investigations into the company’s dominance in searches and smartphones. It is the biggest fine the EU has ever imposed on a single company in an antitrust case, exceeding a 1.06-billion-euro sanction handed down to U.S. chipmaker Intel in 2009. The European Commission said the world’s most popular internet search engine has 90 days to stop favoring its own shopping service or face a further penalty per day of up to 5 percent of Alphabet’s average daily global turnover.

        U.S. antitrust lawsuit against Qualcomm to proceed, judge rules. The Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit against Qualcomm Inc can proceed, a federal judge ruled, meaning the iPhone chip supplier must now wage a fight with U.S. regulators even as it contests a separate $1 billion lawsuit filed by Apple Inc. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California in San Jose denied Qualcomm’s motion to dismiss the FTC’s lawsuit, saying the agency’s allegations would amount to anticompetitive behavior on Qualcomm’s part if proved true.

        EU Antitrust Regulators Halt Qualcomm, NXP Deal Review. EU antitrust authorities have halted their scrutiny of Qualcomm’s $38 billion bid for NXP Semiconductors after the companies failed to provide relevant information. The European Commission opened a full-scale investigation on June 9 and had been scheduled to decide on the deal by Oct. 17. “Once the missing information is supplied by the parties, the clock is re-started and the deadline for the Commission’s decision is then adjusted accordingly,” the EU competition authority said in an email.

        Top EU court to rule on Intel antitrust case on Sept 6. Europe’s top court will rule on Sept. 6 whether to uphold Intel’s appeal against a 1.06-billion-euro ($1.2 billion) EU antitrust fine, a case with ramifications for Google’s challenge against a record sanction handed out this week. The European Commission penalized U.S. chipmaker Intel in 2009 because it tried to squeeze out rival Advanced Micro Devices by giving rebates to PC makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co, NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their computer chips from Intel.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          June 26, 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. sues to stop western hospital system from buying clinics.  U.S. antitrust enforcers have filed a complaint aimed at stopping a big hospital system in the western United States from buying a series of clinics.  The lawsuit is aimed at stopping Sanford Health, which has more than 40 hospitals and 250 clinics, from buying Mid Dakota Clinic, which has eight facilities primarily in Bismarck, North Dakota, the Federal Trade Commission said.  The FTC, which sued along with the North Dakota attorney general’s office, said that the merger would sharply reduce competition to provide a broad range of medical services in Bismarck and the surrounding area.

          U.S. to seek to block DraftKings, FanDuel fantasy sports merger.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it will seek to stop the merger of DraftKings and FanDuel, because the combined company would control more than 90 percent of the U.S. market for paid daily fantasy sports contests.  The FTC, along with the attorneys general of California and the District of Columbia, will file a complaint in federal district court seeking a preliminary injunction to block the deal, the antitrust regulator said.

          Judge Blocks Merger of Nuclear-Waste Disposal Companies.  A federal judge in Delaware has blocked a Utah-based nuclear waste disposal company from buying a Texas-based competitor.  The judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of the U.S. Justice Department in an antitrust lawsuit aimed at blocking Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions’ planned $367 million acquisition of rival Waste Control Specialists, based in Dallas.

          Bayer CEO says talks with EU over Monsanto deal constructive.  Bayer’s chief executive said talks with the EU Commission over the antitrust scrutiny of the German drugmaker’s planned takeover of U.S. seeds maker Monsanto were “very good and constructive,” confirming a target to wrap up the deal by year-end.  Bayer still expects to be able to file for regulatory approval in Europe by the end of June, and CEO Werner Baumann reiterated that EU regulators would likely launch an in-depth analysis of the transaction, which will create the world’s largest supplier in the combined seeds and crop chemicals market.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

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