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

    December 11, 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.

    Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Lawsuit by Minor Leaguers. The Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit filed by minor league baseball players accusing Major League Baseball of colluding to suppress wages, leaving intact a District Court ruling that dismissed the case.  In a one-sentence announcement Monday, the Supreme Court said it would not accept Miranda v. Selig, a suit filed by four minor leaguers in December 2014 alleging MLB’s hiring and employment policies violated antitrust laws by restraining competition among teams and illegally depressing minor league salaries.  U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. dismissed the case the following September, citing the antitrust exemption granted professional baseball by the Supreme Court in 1922 and the failure of Congress to alter it for minor leaguers in the Curt Flood Act of 1998.

    CVS likely wants FTC antitrust review, not Justice Department, of Aetna deal. It is uncertain who in the U.S. government will carry out an antitrust review of CVS Health Corp’s deal to buy health insurer Aetna Inc, but the drugstore company is likely hoping the potentially more lenient Federal Trade Commission gets the nod, antitrust experts say.  The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission share the job of reviewing mergers to make sure they don’t hurt consumers, but sometimes it comes down to a coin toss as to who reviews a deal that involves both agencies’ areas of expertise.  The Justice Department might be best-placed since it recently reviewed, and stopped, two insurance industry tie-ups, including Aetna’s plan to buy rival Humana Inc.

    Trump and Warren Find Common Ground on Antitrust. President Trump and Senator Elizabeth Warren make odd antitrust bedfellows. Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, says megadeals like Aetna’s $77 billion sale to CVS could kill competition.  She also backs the Justice Department’s fight against an AT&T-Time Warner merger and has concerns about past merger remedies.  That puts her in the same camp as the president.  She laid out her views on deal making in a speech on Wednesday. AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, she said, would mean higher prices, fewer choices and worse service for consumers.  That echoes Mr. Trump’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, and the Justice Department’s November lawsuit to block the deal, which asserted that the merger would leave millions of television viewers paying more and would slow innovations like video streaming.

    AT&T/Time Warner antitrust trial set for March. The trial to determine if the U.S. Department of Justice can stop AT&T Inc’s $85 billion purchase of media company Time Warner Inc will begin on March 19 with no decision expected before the companies’ April 22 deadline to complete the deal, a federal judge said on Thursday.  Time Warner and AT&T, which is the No. 2 U.S. wireless company and also owns DirecTV, announced their deal in October 2016, but it was not until last month that the Justice Department sued AT&T to block the deal, arguing it could raise prices for rivals and pay-TV subscribers and hamper the development of online video.  Judge Richard Leon said during a hearing on Thursday he would likely not have a decision by the deadline in the companies’ merger agreement, but would rule in late April or May.


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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, Uncategorized

      May 1, 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. Appeals Court Blocks Anthem Bid to Merge with Rival Cigna.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday blocked health insurer Anthem Inc.’s bid to merge with Cigna, upholding a lower court’s decision that the $54 billion deal should not be allowed because it would lead to higher prices for healthcare.  The ruling will probably kill the proposed merger, which was opposed by the U.S. Justice Department, 11 states and a District Court judge after consumers, medical professionals and others objected to it.  In the end, Cigna itself tried to back out.  Still, Anthem and Cigna have the option of trying to save the deal by asking the appeals court to re-consider the case or appealing straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

      How Trump’s Pick for Top Antitrust Cop May Shape Competition.  Makan Delrahim, the nominee for chief antitrust cop at the Justice Department, was 10 when his family immigrated to the United States from Iran as Jewish political refugees.  Unable to speak English, he struggled to keep up in school. He worked afternoons and weekends at his father’s gas station near Los Angeles until college.  As a young Senate staff member years later, Mr. Delrahim found those early experiences had laid the foundation for his conservative views.

      Sanofi Files U.S. Antitrust Lawsuit Against Mylan Over EpiPen.  France’s Sanofi SA on Monday sued Mylan NV, accusing the pharmaceutical company of engaging in illegal conduct to squelch competition to its EpiPen allergy treatment, which has been at the center of a public debate over drug prices.  In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, Sanofi said Mylan caused it to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in sales by erecting barriers to U.S. consumers’ access to and use of a rival product, Auvi-Q.  In particular, Sanofi said Mylan offered rebates to insurers, pharmaceutical benefit managers and state Medicaid agencies conditioned on Auvi-Q not being an epinephrine auto-injector device they would reimburse for use by consumers.

      FTC Allows Sycamore to Sell Family Dollar Stores to Dollar General.  The Federal Trade Commission gave a private equity firm approval on Thursday to sell to Dollar General Corp 323 stores that Sycamore purchased as part of a divestiture package two years ago, the agency said on Thursday.  Sycamore Partners II, LP bought the stores in 2015 when Dollar Tree was forced to sell shops in 35 states to win antitrust approval to buy the Family Dollar chain in what was then a $9.2 billion deal.  Sycamore, which had created Dollar Express LLC to run the business, asked the FTC to approve the stores’ transfer to competitor Dollar General (DG.N) in March and said in a document filed with the FTC that the chain could “no longer viably operate as a standalone business.”

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      Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, General, Uncategorized

        February 6, 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.

        Drug Makers Accused of Fixing Prices on Insulin.  A lawsuit has been filed accusing three makers of insulin of conspiring to drive up the prices of their lifesaving drugs, harming patients who were being asked to pay for a growing share of their drug bills.  The price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, with the three manufacturers — Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — raising the list prices of their products in near lock step, prompting outcry from patient groups and doctors who have pointed out that the rising prices appear to have little to do with increased production costs.  The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, accuses the companies of exploiting the country’s opaque drug-pricing system in a way that benefits themselves and the intermediaries known as pharmacy benefit managers.

        EU Probes Online Sales in Electronics, Video Games, Hotels.  EU antitrust regulators opened three investigations on Thursday into 15 companies suspected of restricting online sales of electronics, video games and hotel rooms to deny consumers choice and prevent them from buying at the lowest prices.  The EU aims to boost online cross-border sales and stop “geo-blocking” — restricting offers based on a customer’s location — which runs counter to its goal of a single market for digital goods and services that would underpin economic growth.  “E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

        NCAA Agrees to Pay $208 Million Settlement in Antitrust Case.  The NCAA and 11 major athletic conferences announced Friday night they have agreed to pay $208.7 million to settle a federal class-action antitrust lawsuit filed by former college athletes who claimed the value of their scholarships was illegally capped.  The settlement still must be approved by a judge and it does not close the antitrust case.  The NCAA said in a statement the association and conferences “will continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play.”

        Walgreens and Rite Aid Cut Price of Merger.  Concerns about regulatory approval have weighed on Walgreens Boots Alliance’s bid to buy a top drugstore rival, Rite Aid, as the two cut the price of the deal while pushing back the expected closing date by six months.  In a joint statement, the retailers said that they would cut the price of the takeover to between $6.50 a share and $7 a share, potentially revaluing the transaction to as little as $6.8 billion.  When the transaction was announced in 2015, Walgreens had agreed to pay $9 a share, or $9.4 billion.

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        Categories: Uncategorized

          January 3, 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.

          Russia’s Gazprom Files Proposals to EU Aimed at Ending Antitrust Case.  Russia’s Gazprom said it had filed proposals with the European Commission aimed at resolving a five-year EU case over the Russian gas giant’s alleged monopoly practices.  The Russian state gas exporter, which supplies a third of the EU’s gas, has been on the European Commission’s radar since 2012, culminating in charges last year that it overcharged customers in eastern and central Europe and blocked rivals.  Since then, Gazprom has offered concessions aimed at staving off a potential fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover.

          South Korean Antitrust Regulator Fines Qualcomm $865 Million.   South Korea’s antitrust regulator slapped a 1.03 trillion won ($865 million) fine on Qualcomm Inc. Wednesday for allegedly violating competition laws.  The Fair Trade Commission said that the San Diego, California-based company had engaged in unfair business practices in patent licensing and chip sales, including refusing to let rival chipmakers license patents essential for chip making.  The FTC said Qualcomm allegedly used its dominant position in the modem chip market to force handset makers to pay license fees for a broad set of patents under terms it set unilaterally and to coerce handset makers into signing licensing contracts.

          Abbott Gets U.S. Antitrust Approval to Buy St. Jude Medical.  Healthcare company Abbott Laboratories has won U.S. antitrust approval for its proposed $25 billion acquisition of medical device maker St. Jude Medical Inc., the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said.  Abbott agreed to divest two medical devices used in cardiovascular procedures to resolve FTC concerns the acquisition would stifle competition, the commission said in a statement.  “We continue to work to obtain final regulatory approvals and anticipate closing before the end of the year or shortly thereafter,” Abbott spokeswoman Elissa Maurer said in an email.

          FTC Seeks More Iinfo on Bass Pro-Cabela’s Deal.  U.S. fishing and hunting equipment retailer Cabela’s Inc., which is being bought by privately held rival Bass Pro Shops, said the Federal Trade Commission had sought more information from the companies about the deal.  As part of the proposed $5.5 billion deal, announced in October, Capital One Financial Corp. had said it would buy Cabela’s credit card business and signed a 10-year partnership with Bass Pro to issue credit cards to Cabela’s customers.  On Friday, Cabela’s said Capital One had informed the company that it does not expect to get approval for acquiring the credit card business, called World’s Foremost Bank, before Oct. 3, 2017, hence not allowing the deal to close in the first half of 2017.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues, Uncategorized

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