May 14, 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 antitrust regulators to rule on Comcast, sky deal by June 15.  EU antitrust regulators will rule on U.S. cable operator Comcast’s 22-billion-pound ($30 billion) bid for British pay-TV company Sky by June 15, the European Commission said on Tuesday.  The world’s biggest entertainment company is competing with Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox to win over Sky. Fox has run into various stumbling blocks since agreeing to a Sky takeover in December 2016.

Appeals Court Reinstates Challenge to Seattle Rideshare Law.  A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation law allowing drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize.  The city’s 2015 measure requires companies that hire or contract with drivers of taxis, for-hire transportation companies and app-based services to bargain with them on issues such as pay and working conditions if a majority show they want to be represented.  A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously said the measure is subject to challenge under federal antitrust law, and it sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle to determine whether the measure is, in fact, impermissible.

Democratic lawmakers express ‘serious concerns’ about T-Mobile purchase of Sprint.  Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic lawmakers have expressed “serious concerns” about T-Mobile US, Inc.’s plan to buy rival Sprint Corp, focusing on the planned deal’s effect on lower-cost wireless plans, Klobuchar’s office said in a press statement.  “T-Mobile and Sprint have led the way in offering wireless products and service options that are more appealing to lower-income consumers, including no contract plans, prepaid and no credit check plans, and unlimited text, voice, and data plans,” the lawmakers wrote.  While AT&T and Verizon dominate the U.S. wireless market overall, T-Mobile is the most popular among customers who make less than $75,000 per year, and Sprint’s prepaid brand Boost counts 83 percent of its users in that income range, according to data from Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

Microchip says can’t confirm reports on China approval of Microsemi deal.  Microchip Technology Inc. said it cannot confirm media reports that the Chinese government has approved its $8.35 billion bid to buy Microsemi Corp.  “We cannot confirm today’s report in the press that China’s MOFCOM has cleared the transaction,” the company told Reuters in an email.  Microchip said it believes the deal review process is running smoothly, and it remained optimistic that it will shortly get clearance from China’s Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom). Mofcom approval is seen as the major hurdle for the deal, which has already received antitrust clearance in the United States.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, 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 2, 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.

      Ramen price-fixing class action headed for U.S. trial.  A federal judge in San Francisco has refused to dismiss antitrust class action litigation accusing two big South Korean ramen producers of conspiring to fix prices in the United States, clearing the way for a trial.  U.S. District Judge William Orrick on Thursday rejected efforts by market leader Nongshim Co. and Ottogi Corp. to dismiss claims brought by food retailers and distributors, and by consumers in 23 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

      Google Extends Commitments Stemming From U.S. Antitrust Case.  Alphabet Inc.’s Google said it will extend commitments made five years ago to U.S. antitrust officials related to how developers use its advertising platform and the scraping of third-party content in search results.  The internet search giant said in a blog post that it will continue the practices that were about to expire, saying they provide “additional flexibility” to developers and web sites.

      Can Disney’s Bid for Fox Overcome Antitrust Concerns?  The Walt Disney Co. is acquiring most of the assets of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion in stock, or $66.1 billion after the assumption of debt, creating a content behemoth that will have the power to reshape the sports and entertainment landscapes.  Their combined heft will give them even more leverage over cable companies and internet service providers while strengthening their online video streaming services, according to experts at Wharton and elsewhere.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy

        October 23, 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. top court to review antitrust claims against American Express.  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether American Express Co. is violating federal antitrust law by forbidding merchants that accept its credit cards from encouraging customers to use rival cards that charge lower fees.  The justices will hear an appeal by 11 states led by Ohio that had sued American Express of a 2016 lower court ruling that endorsed the legality of the company’s “anti-steering” provisions in contracts with merchants.  Merchants annually pay more than $50 billion in so-called swipe fees to process credit card transactions, and these fees can be passed along to customers through higher prices.

        Trump names Washington insiders to head antitrust, consumer protection agency.  The White House formally announced on Thursday the president will nominate Washington antitrust lawyer Joseph Simons to the Federal Trade Commission, along with Rohit Chopra, a former official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Once the two are confirmed by the Senate, Simons will be named to chair the agency, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law and investigates allegations of deceptive behavior by companies.  The FTC has five seats, and no more than three can be from one party.

        BMW Headquarters Are Raided in Collusion Inquiry.  Antitrust investigators conducted a surprise raid on the headquarters of BMW in Munich as part of an investigation into possible illegal collusion among German automakers, the company acknowledged Friday.  European antitrust authorities said in July that they were looking into allegations that Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW conspired to hold down prices of crucial technology, possibly including emissions equipment.  The raid, which took place on Monday but did not come to light until Friday, is a sign that the investigation — which has not led to any formal charges — may be intensifying.

        Time-Warner, AT&T win conditional antitrust nod in Brazil.  Brazil’s antitrust authority on Wednesday approved a merger of Time-Warner Inc. and AT&T Inc., and allowed the companies to keep all of their assets in the country, under certain conditions.  The Brazilian regulator Cade unanimously voted to approve the deal, which is facing strong regulatory scrutiny in the United States, as long as the companies’ operations in Brazil remain separate and agree not to share sensitive information.  The merged company must also disclose the terms of all content licensing and TV programming deals to Cade, which will assess if they undermine competition in the market.

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

          October 16, 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. top court asks Justice Department for views in Apple antitrust case.  The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Trump administration for its views on whether to hear Apple Inc’s bid to avoid a class-action lawsuit accusing the tech giant of inflating consumer prices by charging illegally high commissions on iPhone software sales through its App Store.  The justices are considering whether to take up Apple’s appeal of a lower court ruling that allowed the proposed class-action suit alleging it violated federal antitrust law to proceed.  Apple said the case should be thrown out because only developers of the apps who were charged the commissions, not consumers, should be entitled to bring such a suit.

          U.S. Justice Dept Official Should Not Review AT&T/Time Warner Deal: Senator.  U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Thursday urged the Justice Department’s top antitrust official to recuse himself from an ongoing review of AT&T Inc’s planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc.  She urged Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim, who was confirmed late last month, not to take part in the review because of his previous statement that the merger did not pose a “major antitrust problem.”  “Your refusal to recuse yourself will undermine public confidence in the division’s ability to reach an unbiased final decision in the matter,” Warren wrote in the letter.

          Taiwan fines Qualcomm $774 million for antitrust violations. Qualcomm Inc faces an antitrust fine in Taiwan, the latest in a years-long streak of regulatory setbacks to its business model that comes as it also fights U.S. regulators and iPhone maker Apple Inc in court over many of the same legal issues.  The Taiwan Fair Trade Commission said on Wednesday it would fine Qualcomm T$23.4 billion ($774.14 million) for anti-trust violations of its chip technology.  The Commission said in a Chinese-language statement that Qualcomm had a monopoly over the chip market for several so-called modem technologies, which provide wireless data connectivity for mobile phones, and refused to license its technology to other industry players.

          EU says wants Russia’s Gazprom to sweeten antitrust concessions. The European Commission wants Russian gas giant Gazprom to make more concessions in order to end a six-year long antitrust investigation, the Commission said on Friday after another round of talks.  Gazprom said progress was made during the meeting.  The comments by the EU competition authority came after Gazprom deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev met EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager to discuss the case in Brussels.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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