February 1, 2016

The Antitrust Week in Review

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

NY’s top prosecutor targets NFL in antitrust probe – source.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly conducting an antitrust investigation of the NFL and its practice of imposing “price-floors” on certain tickets as part of an ongoing probe into the online ticketing market.  The antitrust investigation grew out of a probe by the attorney general’s office into irregularities in the ticketing industry, which found that ticket brokers were using illegal software programs to snap up thousands of tickets and reselling them with huge price markups.

EU Slaps $150 Million Cartel Fine on Car Parts Producers.  The European Union is fining two Japanese car part producers $150 million for fixing prices for alternators and starters for more than half a decade.  Melco will have to pay the biggest fine of 110.9 million euros, with Hitachi having to pay 26.9 million euros.  A third company, Denso, was not fined since it disclosed the case to the EU’s antitrust office.  Although the collusion may have occurred outside of the 28-nation EU, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that her office would still pursue the case since EU consumers were hurt by artificially high prices.

Exclusive: EU to give unconditional approval to Schlumberger deal – sources.  The world’s biggest oilfield services company, Schlumberger, is set to gain unconditional EU approval for its $14.8 billion bid for equipment maker Cameron International Corp, according to sources.  The acquisition will enable Schlumberger to offer a broader range of products at lower prices to oil companies, which are slashing spending in response to falling oil prices, and boost its market share.  Some antitrust experts have said the two U.S. companies offer complementary product lines, meaning the deal would draw less regulatory scrutiny.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    January 25, 2016

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

    Cable Acquisitions by Charter Communications Face Rising Opposition.  Comcast’s failed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable collapsed last year under pressure from regulators, who found that the combined company would have had both the power and incentive to inhibit the future of streaming video.  Now, as rival Charter Communications seeks approval for its $67.1 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, critics point to the same potential for harm.  “If Comcast’s deal for Time Warner Cable was a Category 5 hurricane, Charter-Time Warner is a Category 4,” according to Jeff Blum, deputy general counsel of Dish Network, the satellite television provider.

    European Antitrust Chief Takes Swipe at Privacy Issue.  Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, is warning that the collection of a vast amount of users’ data by a small number of tech companies like Google and Facebook could be in violation of the EU’s tough competition rules.  Ms. Vestager’s comments are the latest in a growing chorus of European criticism about the privacy practices of American tech giants, many of which rely on crunching data based on people’s social media posts, online search queries and e-commerce purchases to fuel their digital advertising businesses.  “If a few companies control the data you need to cut costs, then you give them the power to drive others out of the market,” Ms. Vestager said at a conference of digital executives and policy makers.

    Hollywood studios, Sky spar with EU antitrust regulator.  NBCUniversal, Disney and four other U.S. studios together with Sky UK are pushing back against European Union charges of anticompetitive movie-licensing deals ahead of a decision later this year.  The companies’ defense comes six months after the European Commission accused them of preventing consumers outside Britain and Ireland from accessing films and other content broadcast by the British pay-TV group.  The accusations by the EU antitrust enforcer came amid a campaign to end restrictions hindering cross-border trade, aimed at boosting e-commerce and growth in the 28-country bloc.

    U.S. FTC probes Turing over drug prices, Shkreli’s lawyer says.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating Turing Pharmaceuticals for possible antitrust violations in connection with the company’s decision to hike the price of a life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent, according to a lawyer for former Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli.  The investigation was disclosed in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from Baruch Weiss, Shkreli’s lawyer, as grounds for why his client would not answer questions about drug prices at a Jan. 26 hearing.  The committee had subpoenaed Shkreli, who has been indicted separately on securities fraud charges, to appear to discuss why, as Turing’s CEO, he decided to raise the price of Daraprim to $750 a tablet from $13.50.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

      January 19, 2016

      The Antitrust Week In Review

      Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

      AB InBev Faces In-Depth U.S. Antitrust Review on SABMiller Deal.  U.S. antitrust officials are expanding their investigation of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s planned takeover of SABMiller Plc.  The Justice Department’s antitrust division has issued a second request to the beer maker, according to the company.  The inquiry signals an expansion of the antitrust enforcers’ review of how the combination would affect competition and prices for beer.

      EU Looks Into Consumer Complaint Against McDonald’s.  The European Union is reviewing an antitrust complaint by an alliance of Italian consumer groups that is accusing fast-food giant McDonald’s of abusing its dominant position at the expense of both its franchisees and consumers.  The consumer groups, which are backed by trade unions, claim that McDonald’s forces franchisees to lease property it owns at excessive prices and imposes restrictive contracts.

      Exclusive: State attorneys general joining probe of health insurer mergers.  About 15 state attorneys general have joined the U.S. Justice Department’s probe of two big insurance mergers, according to sources, increasing the scrutiny on proposed deals that would reduce the number of nationwide health insurers to three from five.  The formation of this large group to scrutinize both Aetna Inc’s plan to buy Humana Inc and Anthem Inc’s bid for Cigna Corp complicate what was already expected to be a tough and lengthy review by federal antitrust enforcers.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        January 11, 2016

        The Antitrust Week In Review

        Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

        Goldman, JPMorgan, Glencore defeat U.S. lawsuit over zinc prices.  A U.S. judge dismissed a private antitrust lawsuit in which zinc purchasers accused affiliates of Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Glencore Plc of conspiring to drive up prices.  In an 87-page decision, Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said purchasers failed to show that the defendants artificially inflated zinc prices in violation of the Sherman Act.  The court ruled that although  “[i]t remains possible that shenanigans drove up the price of physical zinc,” plaintiffs failed to adequately allege “that such price movement was due to a plausible antitrust violation, as opposed to parallel, unilateral conduct beyond the reach of that statutory scheme.”

        Orange in talks to acquire Bouygues Telecom.  French telecommunications giant Orange has revealed that it is in talks to acquire Bouygues Telecom, a local rival, in the latest effort to consolidate Europe’s highly fragmented cellphone market.  Consolidation in the market has been delayed after European antitrust officials warned that takeovers in the region’s telecom sector could lead to increased prices and a lack of choice for consumers.  Orange has more than 260 million subscribers worldwide, including 28 million in France.  Bouygues Telecom has 14 million customers, all in France.

        NY orders UnitedHealth to pay $100,000 to settle antitrust probe.  The New York Attorney General has ordered UnitedHealth Group to pay a $100,000 fine after an investigation found the insurance provider engaged in anti-competitive practices involving elder and long-term care products, according to a source.  Reportedly, the settlement focuses on efforts by UnitedHealth to force nursing homes to purchase other additional unwanted insurance services in order to participate in the insurance carrier’s broader network.  In addition to paying a fine to settle the case, UnitedHealth also agreed to cease its practice of requiring nursing homes to purchase multiple insurance products.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          January 4, 2016

          The Antitrust Week In Review

          Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following:

          RadioShack Antitrust Lawsuit: Sony, Samsung, Toshiba And Others Accused Of Illegal Price-Fixing Conspiracy.  The liquidation trustee for the former retail giant RadioShack is accusing five of the world’s largest consumer electronics companies of illegally conspiring to create an intricate price-fixing scheme that artificially inflated the cost of optical disk drives, a common component present in many devices, computers and appliances.  In a federal antitrust lawsuit filed Wednesday in Northern California, the trustee accused Sony Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, Samsung, Philips Electronics and Light-On IT Corp. of participating in a “six-year price-fixing conspiracy,” which allegedly took place from January 2004 until at least January 2010.

          Dow and DuPont will merge in a $130-billion megadeal, then split 3 ways.  Industrial giants Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. said Friday that they had agreed to merge and form a chemicals and agricultural powerhouse valued at $130 billion.  After the all-stock merger, the new company — to be called DowDuPont —plans to split again into three publicly traded companies, with one focused on agriculture, another on materials and plastics and a third on specialty products.  Given the proposed new company’s size, the deal is expected to receive antitrust scrutiny.

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          Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, General

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