April 23, 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.

DOJ Looks Into How AT&T, Verizon Handle Defecting Customers. The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into whether AT&T, Verizon and a standards-setting group worked together to stop consumers from easily switching wireless carriers. The companies confirmed the inquiry in separate statements late Friday in response to a report in The New York Times. The U.S. government is looking into whether AT&T, Verizon and telecommunications standards organization GSMA worked together to suppress a technology that lets people remotely switch wireless companies without having to insert a new SIM card into their phones.

EU antitrust chief says investigation of Google’s Android, AdSense is advancing. Investigations into how Google may be using its Android smartphone operating system and its AdSense advertising service to thwart rivals are advancing, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Wednesday, amid concern about the lengthy proceedings. The European Commission opened its investigation into Android in 2015, following a complaint two years earlier from the lobbying group FairSearch. A 2016 document seen by Reuters said the EU competition enforcer planned to levy a large fine against the company and would order it to stop giving revenue-sharing payments to smartphone makers to pre-install only Google Search.

Time Warner C.E.O. Testifies That AT&T Merger Is Needed to Battle Silicon Valley. Time Warner’s chief executive, Jeffrey Bewkes, vigorously defended his company’s $85.4 billion merger with AT&T on Wednesday, saying the deal was necessary to confront “tectonic changes” in entertainment caused by internet competitors like Netflix and Amazon. Mr. Bewkes was the first top executive from Time Warner and AT&T to take the stand in federal court to argue against the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the merger. The Justice Department had sued to stop the blockbuster deal in November, arguing that a union of the two companies would harm consumers and weaken competition.

Fox chose Disney over Comcast on regulatory, stock fears: filing. Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, which agreed in December to sell most of its assets to Walt Disney Co for $52.4 billion, had previously rejected a bid from Comcast Corp over concerns about the regulatory risks and its stock value, a regulatory filing on Wednesday showed. The joint filing by Disney and Fox, which outlines the timeline of their negotiations, offers the most detailed insight yet into Fox’s thinking, as it goes head-to-head against Comcast, a U.S. cable operator, in its bid to acquire European pay-TV company Sky Plc, in which Fox holds a 39 percent stake. Comcast announced in February it was working on a $31 billion bid that would top Fox’s deal for Sky. It has not made a new attempt to bid for the Fox assets after the Disney deal, so investors are keen for information on the hurdles that prevented an agreement between Fox and Comcast.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues, Uncategorized

    April 16, 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 carries out antitrust raid at firms dealing with sports media rights.  EU investigators carried out unannounced inspections on Tuesday at the offices of firms linked to the broadcasting of sports events in several member states over concerns they may have violated EU antitrust rules, the European Commission said.  It said the Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.  “Officials carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies active in the distribution of media rights and related rights pertaining to various sports events and/or their broadcasting,” the Commission said in a statement.

    Google poised to emerge unscathed from European antitrust crackdown.  The European Union’s top antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager, has made it her mission to stem alleged anti-competitive abuses by big American tech companies, threatening as recently as last month to break up Alphabet Inc.’s Google.  But a decision in the most important of three antitrust cases against Google – this one aimed at loosening its stranglehold over Android-powered smartphones – is likely to show just how difficult it is, even for a committed trust-buster like Vestager, to dent the power of the U.S. giants.  The final ruling, expected within the next few months, will likely involve a multi-billion-dollar fine and an end to clauses in licensing agreements that stop smartphone vendors from promoting alternatives to apps such as Google Search and Maps, people familiar with the European Commission’s thinking say.

    European Authorities Raid Offices of 21st Century Fox Unit.  European authorities raided the London offices of a unit of 21st Century Fox on Tuesday as part of an antitrust investigation into the distribution of sports programming.  The search at Fox Networks Group was one of several the European Commission said it had conducted across Europe as part of an investigation into potential violations of rules prohibiting price-fixing cartels.  The investigation adds to the regulatory challenges that 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch’s media giant, is facing in Europe, where officials have held up its bid to take full control of the British satellite broadcaster Sky.

    Bayer shares jump on report of U.S. antitrust deal on Monsanto.  Bayer shares jumped nearly 5 percent on Tuesday following a media report that the U.S. Justice Department will allow the German drugs and pesticides group to acquire Monsanto in a $62.5 billion deal.  The Justice Department reached an agreement in principle with Bayer and Monsanto in recent days after the companies agreed to sell more assets, the Wall Street Journal said late on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.  Under the deal, Bayer agreed to sell additional seed and treatment assets to BASF and agreed to make concessions related to digital agriculture, it said.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      April 9, 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.

      Judge Lets Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Suit Move Ahead.  A court is allowing antitrust litigation against health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield to proceed.  U.S. District Judge David Proctor of Birmingham, Alabama, in a ruling late Thursday refused to accept the insurer’s claim that it’s a single entity operating across the nation.  Instead, Proctor agreed to let plaintiff lawyers move ahead with allegations that some actions by 36 state insurance operations could amount to an automatic violation of antitrust laws.  The suit claims the insurer’s actions mean higher premiums for customers and lower reimbursement rates for medical providers.

      Time Warner pressure on cable carriers cited as U.S. fights AT&T deal.  The Justice Department, seeking to stop AT&T Inc.’s deal to purchase Time Warner Inc., sought to show how often Time Warner subsidiary Turner would threaten to cut off cable companies to win concessions during contract negotiations.  The Justice Department has asked Judge Richard Leon, who is hearing the testimony, to order the companies to abandon the deal on the grounds that it is illegal under antitrust law.  Coleman Breland, who negotiated distribution contracts for Turner for more than two decades, testified about a series of instances in which the movie and TV show maker threatened to “go dark,” essentially cutting off access to content for various cable providers.

      Italy Antitrust opens probe into Facebook’s collection, use of data.  Italy’s Antitrust Authority has opened a probe into possible incorrect commercial practices by Facebook in its treatment of user data, the agency said in a statement on Friday.  “When an account is activated, Facebook may not adequately and immediately inform the user about the collection and use, for commercial reasons, of the data that they release,” the statement said.  The agency also said users may “automatically and without their knowledge” be agreeing to the harvesting and use of their data by third-party applications that connect to the Facebook platform.

      Live Nation Rules Music Ticketing, Some Say With Threats.  In 2010, when the Justice Department allowed the two most dominant companies in the live music business — Live Nation and Ticketmaster — to merge, many greeted the news with dread.  Live Nation was already the world’s biggest concert promoter.  Ticketmaster had for years been the leading ticket provider.  Critics warned that the merger would create an industry monolith, one capable of crippling competitors in the ticketing business.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        April 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.

        EU antitrust chief keeps open threat to break up Google: report.  The European Union holds “grave suspicions” about the dominance of internet giant Google and has not ruled out breaking it up, according to a warning by the EU’s antitrust chief, Britain’s Telegraph reported.  European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager reckons the threat to split Google into smaller companies must be kept open, the newspaper said.  Google currently faces new EU rules on its commercial practices with smaller businesses that use its services.

        Uber Beats Philadelphia Cabbies’ Antitrust Appeal.  Uber Technologies Inc. on Tuesday defeated an appeal by 80 Philadelphia taxicab companies accusing the ride-sharing company of trying to monopolize that city’s vehicle-for-hire market.  The broadly worded decision by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could help Uber defend against similar claims in New York and other cities where the taxi industry is struggling. Taxicab companies and a trade group, the Philadelphia Taxi Association, claimed that Uber had an unfair advantage by being allowed to enter Philadelphia in October 2014 without having to comply with various local regulations governing taxis.

        EU antitrust chief turns to academics to help tackle tech challenges.  Europe’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, who has taken on Google, Apple and Qualcomm in recent years, is looking to three academics to help her deal with anti-competitive practices in fast-moving technology markets.  Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic worry about the power of a few giant technology companies over businesses and users, with critics even calling for the rewriting of antitrust enforcement rules to make them more interventionist.  Others, however, say enforcers have no business predicting how new technologies should develop and where and how they should be used.  U.S. Federal Trade Commission acting chairman Maureen Ohlhausen in a recent speech asked if enforcers were truly qualified to pick winners and losers in the modern economy.

        Time Warner Looks Appealing as Antitrust Trial Underway: Barron’s.  Shares of Time Warner Inc. look appealing based on their underlying value and on the strong chance that AT&T Inc. will win approval for its $85 billion acquisition of the company, according to the March 26 edition of Barron’s.  AT&T squared off with the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday in a long anticipated antitrust trial, as the two sides disputed whether the company’s purchase of Time Warner would be good for consumers or an expensive drag on innovation.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          March 19, 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.

          A Media Giant in the Balance: AT&T Antitrust Trial Kicks Off.  AT&T squares off against the federal government today in a trial that could shape how you get — and how much you pay for — streaming TV and movies.  AT&T says it needs to gobble up Time Warner if it’s to have a chance against the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Google in the rapidly evolving world of video entertainment.  The Justice Department’s antitrust lawyers say that if AT&T and Time Warner are allowed to combine, consumers will end up paying more to watch their favorite shows, whether on a TV screen, smartphone or tablet.

          EU antitrust regulators to decide on Apple, Shazam deal by April 23.  EU antitrust authorities will decide by April 23 whether to clear iPhone maker Apple’s buy of British music discovery app Shazam, the European Commission said on Thursday.  Apple sought EU approval for the deal on Wednesday, according to a filing on the EU competition agency’s website.  The move had been expected after seven European countries including France, Italy and Spain asked the Commission to take charge of the case.

          Bayer faces U.S. antitrust hurdles for Monsanto merger: Bloomberg.  Bayer AG’s plan to win antitrust approval to buy U.S. seeds supplier Monsanto Co. has not satisfied U.S. officials, who are worried the $62.5 billion merger could hurt competition, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.  The U.S. Department of Justice wants Bayer to divest more assets to satisfy its conditions, and does not think the German chemicals company’s current proposal is sufficient, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.  Monsanto spokeswoman Sara Miller declined to comment.  A Bayer spokesman said the company would not comment on rumors, but added it remains in talks with regulators to help close the deal in the second quarter of the year.

          Impax broke U.S. antitrust law by delaying generic drug, jury told.  Impax Laboratories Inc. went to trial over allegations by major retailers and consumers that the company agreed to delay launching a generic version of acne medication Solodyn in exchange for millions of dollars from the manufacturer.  The trial in Boston federal court is one of a handful to have taken place since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 said so-called “pay-for-delay” settlements resolving pharmaceutical patent lawsuits can violate antitrust laws.  The settlements occur when a brand-name drugmaker pays a generic rival to delay releasing a cheaper version of its product in exchange for resolving court challenges to patents covering the treatment.  A lawyer for Impax, in his opening statement, denied there was any such arrangement to delay Solodyn’s entry to the market.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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