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

        October 9, 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.

        Qualcomm offers EU concessions over $38 billion NXP takeover bid.  U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm has offered concessions in an attempt to allay EU antitrust concerns over its $38-billion bid for NXP Semiconductors, the largest ever in the semiconductor industry.  Qualcomm, which supplies chips to Android smartphone makers and Apple, submitted its proposal on Oct. 5, a filing on the European Commission site showed on Monday, without providing details.  The EU competition enforcer, which suspended the deadline for its decision on Aug. 17 for a second time while waiting for information data from Qualcomm, said it would set a new deadline once the company has complied with its request.

        Shire sues Allergan in U.S. over dry eye drug.  Allergan Plc has been sued by Shire Plc for allegedly scheming to block doctors from prescribing its new treatment for dry eye disease.  In a complaint filed with the federal court in Newark, New Jersey, Shire accused Allergan of violating antitrust laws to preserve its roughly 90 percent share in Medicare prescription drug plans for its older and “clinically inferior” dry eye drug Restasis, and block prescriptions of Shire’s rival drug Xiidra.  “Quite simply, Allergan has and will continue to use bundled discounts, exclusive dealing, coercion and interference to unlawfully ‘block’ Shire from competing with it, and to maintain its monopoly in the Part D market at all costs,” Shire said, referring to the Medicare drug plans.

        Talent Management Group: Dismiss Ex-Football Star’s Lawsuit.  A federal antitrust lawsuit linking a talent management company to alleged improper use of ex-Ohio State athletes’ photos should be tossed out because there’s no evidence the company did anything wrong, according to a court filing.  IMG Worldwide, Inc. and related entities are also backing Ohio State’s request to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying the university is immune from such legal action, an IMG attorney said in the filing Monday.  The lawsuit “does not specifically allege that IMG did anything in connection with any alleged wrongdoing, or is about to do anything wrongful that should be prevented,” said Joseph Castrodale, a Cleveland lawyer representing IMG.

        EU conducts inspections over limits to bank account access.  The European Commission said on Friday it had conducted inspections in some EU states into banks’ alleged anti-competitive practices in limiting rival financial firms from gaining legitimate online access to their customers’ data.  The Commission said in a statement it had “concerns” that the companies involved “may have engaged in anti-competitive practices in breach of EU antitrust rules.”  It did not name any company.  It said that banks could have prevented non-bank competitors from gaining online access to account information of their customers to provide financial services, in spite of having obtained prior authorization from the customers.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, 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

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