February 20, 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.

Anthem Sues Cigna to Block Termination of Merger.  Anthem on Wednesday won a temporary restraining order that blocks smaller rival Cigna from officially terminating their proposed $54 billion merger, a transaction already rejected by U.S. antitrust regulators.  The deal would have created the largest U.S. health insurer.  Rivals Aetna and Humana had sought their own merger, representing an unprecedented consolidation among U.S. health insurers.  In separate rulings, federal judges struck down both deals as anticompetitive, at the request of the Justice Department.  Aetna and Humana said on Tuesday they were ending their deal, but Anthem filed an appeal of its ruling.

Top Antitrust Senators Call for Sessions to Scrutinize AT&T-Time Warner Merger.  The top senators on the  Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel are urging the U.S. Department of Justice to scrutinize the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger for the possibility that it leads to anticompetitive practices.  The subcommittee’s chair, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointing to aspects of the deal that they find troubling.

U.S. Antitrust Obstacles Seen for T-Mobile, Sprint Deal.  Japan’s SoftBank Corp Group may have renewed interest in combining its Sprint Corp with Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile US Inc., but a deal between the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers may not make it past U.S. regulators, antitrust experts and industry watchers said.  SoftBank is prepared to give up control of Sprint to T-Mobile, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.  The companies are expected to begin negotiations in April after the Federal Communications Commission’s auction of airwaves concludes.

Kraft Heinz Offers to Buy Unilever in $143 Billion Deal.  The world’s grocery carts could soon be filled with more and more products from one global colossus.  Food, beverage and consumer-goods companies have been seeking merger partners to obtain greater scale and efficiencies as consumers, particularly younger shoppers, eschew the boxed and jarred foods of their parents’ generation.  Now, one such recently merged giant, Kraft Heinz, has set its sights on the biggest target to date: Unilever, the home of Dove soap and Axe body spray, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.  But a merger would be certain to draw antitrust reviews by regulators from many countries.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, General

    February 13, 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. Court Blocks Anthem-Cigna Merger, Dealing Blow to Consolidation.  A federal judge on Wednesday ruled against U.S. health insurer Anthem’s proposed $54 billion merger with smaller rival Cigna, derailing an unprecedented effort to consolidate the country’s health insurance industry.  The U.S. Justice Department sued in July to stop Anthem’s purchase of Cigna, a deal that would have created the largest U.S. health insurer by membership, and Aetna’s planned $33 billion acquisition of Humana.  The merger would have worsened an already highly concentrated market and is likely to raise prices, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said while issuing the ruling against Anthem’s deal.

    Tyson Reveals SEC Subpoena, Likely Tied to Pricing Lawsuits.  Tyson Foods says it has been subpoenaed by federal regulators, likely related to an investigation in connection with allegations that the company and others colluded to fix poultry prices.  The Springdale, Arkansas-based meat producer said in a regulatory filing it received the subpoena Jan. 20 from the Securities and Exchange Commission.  It said it is cooperating with the investigation, which is in an “early stage.”

    BT Supports Google’s Android in EU Antitrust Row.  BT has become the first major telecoms company to back Google in a battle with EU regulators, defending the “stability and compatibility” of the Android operating system, which is in the sights of antitrust regulators.  The EU says Google stifles competition by forcing smartphone makers to pre-install its search function and browser to access its other apps, such as Google Play, on Android.  EU regulators were already investigating the U.S. company over the promotion of its own shopping service in its search engine before they opened a second front last year.

    Mylan Agreed to Pay $96.5 Mln in Provigil Antitrust Class Action.  Mylan has agreed to pay $96.5 million to settle claims by drug purchasers that it delayed launching a generic version of Cephalon’s narcolepsy drug Provigil in exchange for payment from Cephalon.  The settlement was disclosed in a filing by the drug purchasers in Pennsylvania federal court on Friday and must still be approved by the court.  The money will go to purchasers that bought brand-name Provigil from Cephalon directly, like wholesalers and distributors.

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    Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      February 7, 2017

      EU Launches Three Antitrust Investigations Into E-Commerce

      A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

      By Richard Pike and Yulia Tosheva

      On Thursday, the EU Commission launched three separate investigations into suspected anticompetitive practices in the online sales of consumer electronics, video games and hotel accommodation.

      The launch of these investigations does not come as a surprise.  On September 15, 2016, the Commission published a Preliminary Report following its sector inquiry into e-commerce which identified retail price restrictions, discrimination on the basis of location and geo-blocking practices as areas of concern.

      During the sector inquiry, the Commission gathered evidence from nearly 1,800 companies operating in e-commerce sales of consumer goods and digital content and analysed around 8,000 distribution contracts.  The inquiry is part of the EC’s wider Digital Single Market Strategy, which was adopted on May 6, 2015.  As this blog discussed, the goal of the Digital Single Market is to ensure better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe, and create a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        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 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.

          Amazon Offers to Scrap E-book Clauses to Settle EU Antitrust Probe.  Amazon has offered to alter its e-book contracts with publishers in a bid to end an EU antitrust probe and stave off a possible fine, the European Commission said on Tuesday.  Amazon, the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, proposed to drop some clauses in its contracts so publishers will not be forced to give it terms as good as those for rivals, the Commission said.  Such clauses relate to business models, release dates, catalogs of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices.

          Judge Blocks Aetna’s $37 Billion Deal for Humana.  A federal judge ruled that a $37 billion merger between the health insurance giants Aetna and Humana should not be allowed to go through on antitrust grounds, siding with the U.S. Justice Department, which had been seeking to block the deal.  The deal is one of two mega-mergers proposed by the nation’s largest health insurers; both were challenged by the Obama administration. Another federal judge is expected to rule soon on the case involving Anthem and Cigna, the larger of the two deals, at $48 billion.

          FTC Settles Pay-for-Delay Lawsuit, Files Two Related Complaints.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced that it has settled allegations that Endo Pharmaceuticals violated antitrust law when it agreed to pay rivals Watson Laboratories and Impax to delay introducing generic versions of two painkillers.  The FTC filed charges against Watson, and Allergan Plc , accusing it of breaking the law by reaching an agreement with Endo to block a generic competitor for the local anesthetic Lidoderm.

          As Regulators Waver, Apple Takes on Qualcomm in Courts.  Apple’s new legal assault on Qualcomm in the United States and China reflects its conclusion that regulators are unlikely to put an end to what it considers the chip maker’s unfair business practices, according to analysts.  Apple has long objected to Qualcomm’s practice of charging for the “modem” chips that help phones use wireless networks data plans and its demands for a license fee based on the total price of the phones.  Qualcomm was the original inventor of a number of key wireless technologies.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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