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

      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 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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