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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    March 12, 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. Justice Department, AT&T spar over merger in final pre-trial documents.  The U.S. Justice Department and AT&T Inc. on Friday presented starkly different futures for online video if the wireless and pay-TV giant is allowed to buy Time Warner Inc., as they laid out their cases for a blockbuster antitrust trial.  The judge’s decision is crucial to the future of both companies and will likely determine how aggressive Republican-controlled antitrust regulators will be in coming years.  U.S. President Donald Trump opposes the deal, and critics want to know if Trump’s antipathy for Time Warner’s CNN news network influenced regulators.

    Broadcom’s Other Regulatory Hurdle: How It Treats Customers.  Broadcom’s $117 billion bid for the rival computer chip maker Qualcomm is being investigated by a federal government committee concerned about giving foreign countries power over American technology vital to national security.  But some people in the technology industry believe Broadcom’s chief executive, Hock Tan, already wields too much power of a different kind, as illustrated by a harshly worded two-page document in a San Francisco court file.  The document comes from Western Digital, the largest supplier of computer disk drives, which complained Broadcom had stopped shipping essential chips called preamplifiers to Western Digital.  The reason?  Broadcom, the document said, was retaliating because Western Digital had considered another supplier’s products.

    Impax to pay $35 mln to settle part of Solodyn antitrust litigation.  Impax Laboratories Inc. has agreed to pay $35 million to resolve part of litigation over claims it entered into an anticompetitive deal in a patent case to delay releasing a generic version of the acne medication Solodyn.  The settlement was disclosed in papers filed in federal court in Boston on Saturday.  It resolved part of the antitrust litigation Impax faces over Solodyn related to sales of the drug to direct purchasers such as retailers and wholesalers.

    BASF seeks EU antitrust approval to buy Bayer assets.  Germany’s BASF has asked for European Commission approval to buy assets from drugmaker Bayer, the company which needs to shed businesses to get clearance for its $63.5 billion merger with Monsanto, a filing showed.  The Commission, which gave no further details on the deal being examined, set a preliminary deadline of April 16 to decide on the matter.  The Commission, which acts as competition watchdog in the European Union, added its assessment of the BASF request did not automatically mean it was satisfied with the commitments made by Bayer.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      March 5, 2018

      The Antitrust Week In Review

      U.S. Supreme Court Liberals Skeptical of American Express Merchant Fees.  Liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices sharply questioned American Express over its policy of forbidding merchants from encouraging customers to use rival credit cards with lower fees, a practice that some states and the Trump administration have concluded violates federal antitrust law.  The high court heard about an hour of arguments in an appeal by the states, led by Ohio, of a 2016 ruling by a lower court in New York that cleared American Express of unlawfully stifling competition through its so-called anti-steering provisions in contracts with merchants.  While liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer signaled hostility toward the company’s policy, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch indicated support for American Express. It was less clear how the other conservative justices would vote.

      Google’s shopping rivals call for action from EU antitrust watchdog.  Google competitors have called for further action by European Union antitrust regulators to ensure the Alphabet-owned firm treats rivals offering shopping services equally.  Last year, Google said it would allow competitors to bid for ads at the top of a search page, giving them the chance to compete on equal terms, after the European Commission fined it a record 2.4 billion euros ($2.9 billion).  “Google’s remedy proposal is, on its face, non-compliant with the prohibition decision,” a group of 19 rivals said in a letter to European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

      U.P.S. Seeks More Than $2 Billion in Damages Over TNT Bid.  United Parcel Service has sued European antitrust regulators for a decision they made five years ago that blocked its takeover of the Dutch delivery company TNT Express, according to a record of court proceedings.  U.P.S. had pursued the TNT merger in the hope of gaining a larger presence in Europe and in emerging markets, but European officials rejected it because of concerns that the transaction would decrease competition and increase prices.  The General Court of the European Union annulled the decision by European Commission regulators last year, in part because the commission had used different economic models at different times to evaluate the deal.

      Deutsche Bank to pay $240 million to end Libor rigging lawsuit in U.S.  Deutsche Bank AG has agreed to pay $240 million to settle private U.S. antitrust litigation accusing it of conspiring with other banks to manipulate the Libor benchmark interest rate.  The preliminary settlement with the German bank was disclosed in filings on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires a judge’s approval.  Deutsche Bank is the third bank to resolve claims by so-called “over-the-counter” investors that transacted directly with banks on a panel to determine Libor.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        February 26, 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.

        AT&T Loses Bid to Obtain White House Call Logs.  A federal judge blocked AT&T’s move to obtain communication logs between the Justice Department and the White House on Tuesday, hampering the phone giant’s argument that politics played a role in the government’s decision to halt a merger with Time Warner.  Judge Richard J. Leon of United States District Court in Washington, who is overseeing a trial over the deal, said AT&T did not sufficiently show in pretrial discussions that it was treated differently from other companies.  “Defendants have fallen far short of establishing that this enforcement action was selective,” Judge Leon said.  The decision puts a crimp in AT&T’s defense for its $85 billion proposed merger with Time Warner.

        Trump Antitrust Cop Splits With EU Over Probes of Big Tech.  U.S. President Donald Trump’s top antitrust watchdog split with EU regulators over their enforcement of big U.S. technology firms, saying their approach risked deterring innovative startups.  Google, Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Facebook Inc. have all suffered run-ins with the European Union’s powerful antitrust arm, part of a wider crackdown in Europe against dominant technology firms that has cost some of them billions of euros.  Makan Delrahim, picked last year by Trump to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division, cited enforcement of digital markets as one of the differences between how the U.S. and the EU conduct antitrust policy. EU law says dominant firms have a special responsibility not to hinder competition, an approach Delrahim criticized.

        Battle Lines Drawn as SolarCity’s Antitrust Case Faces Supreme Court Review.  In 2015, SolarCity, now Tesla, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Salt River Project, claiming the Arizona utility’s $50-per-month demand charges for solar net-metered customers constituted an unlawful use of its monopoly powers to stifle competition.  The case garnered national attention for its unusual approach to fighting the rise of demand charges, fixed charges and other costs for solar-equipped customers via antitrust law, and its potential implications for ratemaking policy across the country.  But before that case can go forward, the U.S. Supreme Court has to decide a separate legal issue — whether SRP is or is not immune from antitrust law as a publicly owned utility.

        U.S. sues to stop Norway’s Wilhelmsen from buying rival Drew Marine.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Friday it would challenge in court the Norwegian company Wilhelmsen Maritime Services’ plan to buy smaller U.S. rival Drew Marine Group.  The FTC said the $400 million proposed deal would reduce competition in the market for marine water treatment chemicals, used in a ship’s boiler water and engine cooling water systems.  If Wilhelmsen closed the deal with New Jersey’s Drew Marine, the FTC said the company would have 60 percent of the market for marine water treatment chemicals, while its closest competitor would have 5 percent.

         

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          February 20, 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. files complaint against three biggest dental supply firms. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Monday it had filed a complaint against the three largest U.S. dental supply companies, saying they had broken antitrust law. The FTC said that Benco Dental Supply, Henry Schein Inc. and Patterson Companies had conspired to refuse to serve or give discounts to dental buying groups. The three companies sell more than 85 percent of the $10 billion in gloves, cements, chairs and other products that U.S. dentists purchase each year, the FTC said. Buying groups representing small dental practices had asked the big dental product suppliers to aggregate sales to them and to negotiate prices, the FTC said.

          AT&T Is Said to Want Antitrust Official on Witness List for Trial.  AT&T is seeking to put the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division on its witness list in a trial over the government’s decision to block the phone giant’s $85 billion merger with Time Warner, according to two people with knowledge of the pretrial activity. The company’s request for the antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, to testify is highly unusual. By putting Mr. Delrahim on the witness list, AT&T is effectively forcing him to defend his own decision to oppose the blockbuster merger. The trial over the Justice Department’s lawsuit to stop the deal is scheduled to begin on March 19.

          Bayer petitions Russian antitrust watchdog for more time in Monsanto case. Bayer has taken Russia’s antitrust regulator to court over the watchdog’s investigation into the company’s planned takeover of Monsanto, a further hiccup in the $64 billion deal amid intense antitrust scrutiny. A Bayer spokesman said the German company was petitioning the court in Russia to be given more time to discuss demands made by the regulator about the deal, which would create the world’s largest seeds and pesticides company. “The parties are in dialogue but the agreement has not been reached yet. Bayer made a decision to bring the case to court in order to safeguard its juridical rights,” Bayer said in a written statement.

          Qualcomm says open to more deal talks with Broadcom following meeting. Qualcomm Inc. on Friday called a meeting with Broadcom Ltd to discuss the latter’s $121 billion bid constructive and opened the door to more talks, but continued to reject the proposed deal between the semiconductor companies. Qualcomm’s response raises the stakes in a battle over what would be the technology sector’s largest-ever acquisition. The two companies have less than three weeks to negotiate a potential deal until Qualcomm shareholders are asked to vote on a challenge by Broadcom to Qualcomm’s board of directors.  Qualcomm has been seeking to walk a fine line between resisting Broadcom’s acquisition approach, which it says undervalues it and is fraught with regulatory risks, and demonstrating to its shareholders and proxy advisory firms that it is willing to engage to secure a better deal if possible.

           

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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