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

      October 2, 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. files antitrust lawsuit against Parker-Hannifin takeover.  The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging Parker-Hannifin Corp.’s purchase of Clarcor Inc., which closed in February.  The lawsuit, brought in U.S. district court in Delaware, was filed out of concern that the $4.3 billion transaction would mean higher prices, worse service or less innovation in the market for aviation fuel filtration systems and products.  The department asked the court to order Parker-Hannifin to sell part of its aviation filtration business on grounds that it and Clarcor had been the only two U.S. manufacturers of the filtration products.

      Google Proposes Remedy in Response to EU Antitrust Crackdown.  Google has proposed a remedy for its search results that European regulators have said favor its own shopping listings: holding an auction for those advertiser-paid spots.  But critics say the proposal still favors the deep-pocketed tech giant, and Europe’s top antitrust regulator is taking a wait-and-see attitude.  Google said Thursday it will still present users with photos and prices when they search for products online and offer a link directly to where they can be purchased.

      US Senate confirms Delrahim to head Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm Makan Delrahim to head the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, which will decide the fate of deals like AT&T Inc.’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Inc. and the merger of Bayer AG and Monsanto Co.  The Senate voted 73 to 21 to confirm Delrahim.

      Abbott wins U.S. antitrust approval to buy Alere with conditions.  Abbott Laboratories has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy Alere Inc. on condition that it sell two point-of-care medical testing businesses, the Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday.  Canada also announced on Thursday that it had approved the proposed transaction on similar terms.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

        September 25, 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.

        Google offers to treat rivals equally via auction –sources.  Google has offered to display rival comparison shopping sites via an auction, as it aims to stave off further EU antitrust fines, four people familiar with the matter said.  Google is under pressure to come up with a big initiative to level the playing field in comparison shopping, but its proposal was roundly criticised by competitors as inadequate, the sources said.  EU enforcers see the antitrust case as a benchmark for investigations of other areas dominated by the U.S. search giant, such as travel and online mapping.

        Walgreens, Rite Aid Trim Store Purchase Deal to $4.38B.  Walgreens and Rite Aid have finally devised a deal between the nation’s largest and third-largest drugstore chains that will get past antitrust regulators.  The companies said Tuesday that they have Federal Trade Commission clearance for a slimmer version of a store-purchase agreement announced in June.  Walgreens will now spend $4.38 billion on 1,932 stores, three distribution centers and inventory.

        Democratic senator lifts hold on Trump antitrust nominee –aide.  U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has lifted her hold on President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, a move that will allow the Senate to vote to confirm Makan Delrahim, a senior Republican aide said on Friday.  Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, had met with Delrahim early in September where she pressed him about her concerns about lobbying and political interference in antitrust.  Delrahim, a veteran of the Justice Department and a lobbyist, has been nominated to be assistant attorney general.

        Bayer dismisses antitrust concerns about digital farming.  Bayer said it was unable to propose the sale of any digital farming assets to allay EU concerns about its planned $66 billion takeover of Monsanto.  The European Commission last month started an in-depth investigation into the German group’s plan to acquire the U.S. seeds maker.  Among its concerns, the regulator took issue with Bayer’s plan to create combined offerings of seeds and pesticides with the help of new digital farming tools, such as connected sensors, software and precision machines.

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

          August 28, 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 starts in-depth probe of Bayer, Monsanto deal.  The European Commission has started an in-depth investigation of Bayer’s planned $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds group Monsanto, saying it was worried about competition in various pesticide and seeds markets.  The deal would create the world’s largest integrated pesticides and seeds company, the Commission said, adding this limited the number of competitors selling herbicides and seeds in Europe.  “The Commission has preliminary concerns that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition in a number of different markets resulting in higher prices, lower quality, less choice and less innovation,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

          Amazon-Whole Foods Deal Clears Last Two Major Hurdles.  Amazon’s bid to become a bigger player in the grocery business took a major step forward Wednesday, as federal antitrust regulators approved the internet company’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market.  And earlier in the day, Whole Foods shareholders voted to approve the $13.4 billion deal, which will give Amazon a major bricks-and-mortar presence with more than 460 stores in a huge retail category where success has eluded the company.  The Federal Trade Commission, which was handling the federal review of the deal, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the agency had concluded that the deal would not harm competition.

          Australian antitrust regulator clears Murdoch to buy Ten Network.  Australia’s antitrust regulator cleared on Thursday a consortium led by News Corp Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch to buy free-to-air television broadcaster Ten Network Holdings Ltd, saying the move would not harm competition.  Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims said that while the deal would reduce diversity of opinion in a market already dominated by a handful of companies including News, it would not “substantially lessen competition.”  The Australian government has proposed liberalizing media ownership laws including removing the so-called “two out of three” rule, which prevents a single party from owning print, radio and television assets in the same market.

          Deal-Making Is Alive and Well, but the Market Is Changing.  The urge to merge is alive and well.  Companies are tying the knot, unperturbed by persistent doubts surrounding the Trump administration and Britain’s forthcoming exit from the European Union.  An absence of organic growth and ready access to low-cost debt are sending them down the aisle in record numbers.  But an array of forces, like takeover rules, antitrust reviews and industrial policy, are helping to break up the party.

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          Categories: Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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