August 6, 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. court allows release of bench transcripts in AT&T merger fight.  An appeals court that is hearing the U.S. Justice Department’s fight with AT&T over its merger with Time Warner agreed on Friday to allow the release of transcripts of bench conferences that the public was unable to listen in on during the trial in a lower court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in an order on Friday that the government would be allowed to release transcripts of the conversations that generally occurred between Judge Richard Leon, who tried the case, and one or more lawyers from the Justice Department, AT&T and Time Warner. Judge Leon ruled in June that the Justice Department was wrong to ask that a $85.4 billion merger of AT&T, which owns DirecTV, and Time Warner be blocked.

DOJ Opens Review of Hollywood Antitrust Regulations.  Signaling that the antitrust regulations that have governed movie distribution for the last seven decades may be ripe for revision, the Department of Justice on Thursday opened a review of the famed Paramount Decrees. The 1948 landmark Supreme Court decision of United States v. Paramount, known as “the Paramount Decrees,” effectively ended the old Hollywood system, outlawing such practices as “block booking,” in which studios required theaters to book a bundle of their films. It was part of antitrust efforts to prohibit the major studios from also controlling the country’s movie theaters.

Credit Suisse charged with rigging foreign exchange rates.  Credit Suisse has been charged by European Union antitrust regulators with rigging foreign exchange rates, the Swiss bank said on Tuesday, a sign that the five-year long EU investigation may reach a conclusion in the coming months. Credit Suisse said in its quarterly report it received notification from the European Commission on July 26 alleging that it “engaged in anticompetitive practices in connection with its foreign exchange trading business”. EU enforcers typically lay out charges of illegal activities conducted by companies before imposing fines which can reach 10 percent of their global turnover.

Linde says regulators likely to demand more divestitures in Praxair deal.  German industrial gases group Linde said it and U.S. rival Praxair may need to sell more assets than anticipated to secure antitrust approval for their planned $87 billion tie-up, which could scupper the deal. The planned combination in an all-shares merger, agreed in principle in December 2016, would create a global leader in gas distribution ahead of France’s Air Liquide.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    July 30, 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.

    Several banks dismissed from U.S. metals price-fixing lawsuits.  A U.S. judge has dismissed five large banks from two antitrust lawsuits by investors alleging multi-year conspiracies to rig prices for hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions in the global silver and gold markets. U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni threw out all claims over alleged silver price-fixing against Bank of America Corp, Barclays Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Standard Chartered Plc and UBS Group AG. The Manhattan judge also dismissed UBS from the gold-fixing case.

    NXP’s Chief Criticizes China After Qualcomm Deal Collapses.  The finger-pointing over the scuttled $44 billion transaction between the chip makers Qualcomm and NXP Semiconductors has begun. Richard Clemmer, chief executive of NXP, had some harsh words on Thursday for officials in China over the deal’s collapse amid a trade war between Washington and Beijing. The acquisition was terminated after it failed to secure regulatory approval from Chinese authorities before a deadline set by the companies at midnight Eastern time on Wednesday.

    EU fines Philips, Asus, Pioneer, Denon & Marantz total 111 mln euros.  EU antitrust authorities handed down a total fine of 111.2 million euros ($130.1 million) to Philips, Pioneer, Asus and Denon & Marantz on Tuesday for fixing online resale prices. The European Commission opened an investigation into the four companies in February last year as part of its crackdown against curbs on online sales across-borders, such as restricting offers based on a customer’s location or nationality. The EU competition enforcer said the companies engaged in “fixed or minimum resale price maintenance” by restricting the ability of their online retailers to set their own retail prices for widely used consumer electronics products such as kitchen appliances, notebooks and hi-fi products.

    Blackstone wins EU approval to buy Thomson Reuters unit.  U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group has secured EU antitrust approval to acquire a majority stake in Thomson Reuters’ Financial and Risk unit, the European Commission said on Monday. Blackstone is making its biggest bet since the financial crisis with the $20 billion deal which pits co-founder Stephen Schwarzman against fellow billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Much like Thomson Reuters, Blackstone’s portfolio company Ipreo also provides financial information products to financial market professionals. The EU enforcer said it did not see any competition concerns despite the overlaps between the two companies.

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    Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      July 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.

      E.U. Fines Google $5.1 Billion in Android Antitrust Case.  European authorities fined Google a record $5.1 billion on Wednesday for abusing its power in the mobile phone market and ordered the company to alter its practices, in one of the most aggressive regulatory actions against American technology giants and one that may force lasting changes to smartphones. The European Union’s antitrust fine of 4.34 billion euros was almost double the bloc’s fine against Google last year over the company’s unfair favoring of its own services in internet search results. The penalty’s size highlighted Europe’s increasingly bold stance against the power of American tech firms, even as officials in the United States have taken a largely hands-off approach to the companies.

      Qualcomm disappointed with continuing EU probe into pricing case.  U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm on Thursday expressed disappointment with EU antitrust regulators’ decision to continue an investigation in a case where it has been accused of charging below cost prices to stymy British phone software maker Icera.  “While the investigation has been narrowed, we are disappointed to see it continues and will immediately begin preparing our response to this supplementary statement of objections,” Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement.

      Comcast concedes to Disney in bidding war for Fox assets.  Comcast Corp. dropped its $66 billion bid for Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment assets on Thursday but said it would still try to expand its international footprint by acquiring 61 percent of European broadcaster Sky Plc, the remainder of which is owned by Fox. Comcast’s withdrawal is a concession to Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), which last month sweetened its offer for the Fox assets to $71.3 billion, in a bid to unite two storied Hollywood studios and several television networks under one corporate umbrella.

      U.S. Tech Enforcer Says Will Read ‘Closely’ EU Statement on Google.  The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has investigated Alphabet’s Google in the past for abuse of web dominance, said on Wednesday he would take a close look at Europe’s recent decision to fine the company 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion). Speaking at a hearing in Capitol Hill, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said he had spoken on Tuesday with EU antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager. “We’re going to read what the EU put out very closely,” Simons told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        July 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 Google decision delayed to next week, source says, as Trump visits.  EU antitrust regulators have postponed to next week a finding against Google’s Android mobile operating system, a person familiar with the matter said, avoiding any clash with a visit to Brussels by U.S. President Donald Trump. The European Commission had scheduled a meeting of national competition agencies for Tuesday to brief them on the case, including what is expected to be a record-breaking fine against Alphabet unit Google. But the meeting has been rescheduled to July 17, the person said, without giving a reason for the change. Other sources said they expected a delay due to the presence of Trump, who is due to attend a NATO summit in Brussels this week.

        Justice Department to Appeal Approval of AT&T Acquisition of Time Warner.  The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it would appeal a federal judge’s approval of AT&T Inc.’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, raising the prospect barely a month after the deal closed that it could be undone. AT&T was sued by the Justice Department on antitrust grounds, saying that the deal would harm consumers, but U.S. District Judge Richard Leon last month approved the deal, allowing it to move forward following a lengthy trial. The merger, first announced in October 2016, was also opposed by President Donald Trump. Leon ruled that the tie-up between AT&T’s wireless and satellite businesses with Time Warner’s movies and television shows was legal under antitrust law.

        Japan watchdog: Apple may have breached antitrust rules with iPhone.  Japanese regulators said on Wednesday Apple Inc may have breached antitrust rules by forcing mobile service providers to sell its iPhones cheaply and charge higher monthly fees, denying consumers a fair choice. The Fair Trade Commission said that the Japanese unit of Apple had forced NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Group Corp. to offer subsidies and sell iPhones at a discount. “Obliging carriers to offer subsidies (for iPhones) could have prevented the carriers from offering lower monthly charges and restricted competition,” the FTC said in a statement.

        Siemens, Alstom deal faces full-scale EU antitrust probe: sources.  Siemens and Alstom are set to face a full-scale EU antitrust investigation this week after declining to provide concessions to allay regulatory concerns about their plan to combine their rail operations, two people familiar with the matter said. German industrial group Siemens and French rival Alstom want to create a Franco-German rail champion to compete more effectively with bigger rival CRRC and Canada’s Bombardier Transportation. The companies had until July 6 to offer concessions to the European Commission but did not do so. Some firms prefer to wait for the EU antitrust enforcer to set out possible anti-competitive issues so they can tailor concessions to address them.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          July 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.

          Supreme Court Sides With American Express on Merchant Fees.  American Express did not violate the antitrust laws by insisting in its contracts with merchants that they do nothing to encourage patrons to use other cards, the Supreme Court ruled last week. The decision has implications not only for what one brief called “an astronomical number of retail transactions” but also for other kinds of markets, notably ones on the internet, in which services link consumers and businesses. Such “two-sided platforms,” the court said, require special and seemingly more forgiving antitrust scrutiny.

          U.S. rate-rigging payouts top $500 million as final banks settle.  Investors have reached $96 million in settlements with the final five defendants in private U.S. litigation accusing banks of rigging a key interest rate benchmark in the global derivatives market, boosting the total payout to more than $500 million. BNP Paribas SA and Morgan Stanley will each pay $33.5 million, Nomura Holdings Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. will each pay $8.75 million, and brokerage ICAP Capital Markets LLC will pay $11.5 million, according to filings in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Upon receiving court approval, the settlements would increase the total recovered from 14 banks plus ICAP to $504.5 million.

          Disney’s Bid for Fox Clears US Antitrust Hurdle.  The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday won U.S. antitrust approval for its $71.3 billion bid for Twenty-First Century Fox’s entertainment assets. Disney must first sell its 22 regional sports networks, the Department of Justice said. The company has 90 days to sell the networks, with an option to extend for another 90 days.

          Visa, Mastercard close to settle issues over card-swipe fees – WSJ.  Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are close to settling a long-running antitrust lawsuit with merchants over the fees they pay while they accept card payments, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. Under the settlement, Visa, Mastercard and a number of banks that issue debit and credit cards including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. would pay the merchants around $6.5 billion, the report said on.wsj.com/2Kx4Wby, citing some of the people. It is not clear how the payment would be split up among the card networks and the issuing banks, according to the report

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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