April 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.

U.S. Top Court Rejects Bid to Revive $7.25 Billion Credit Card Settlement.  The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a bid by retailers to revive a $7.25 billion antitrust settlement they reached with Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. over claims the card networks improperly fixed credit and debit card fees.  The high court left in place a 2016 lower court decision that threw out the settlement on the basis that it was unfair to retailers that stood to receive no payments and derive no other benefits.  Companies including Amazon.com Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. opposed the settlement and challenged it on appeal. Card issuers American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services also objected to the settlement.

Trump Appoints One of His Lawyers to Review Mergers.  President Trump named Makan Delrahim, a former government antitrust enforcer and corporate lobbyist, to lead the Justice Department’s review of mergers and acquisitions.  The appointment is being closely watched because companies across industries have been hoping that the new Republican administration will be more permissive with mergers.  The Obama administration had blocked dozens of blockbuster deals over the past eight years, including AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile in 2011 and Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable in 2015.  Mr. Delrahim, who serves as legal counsel to the president, will be quickly tested in his new position by AT&T’s $85 billion bid for Time Warner, which is set to be reviewed this year.  Other mergers under review include Dow Chemical’s bid for Dupont and Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto.

EU Vetos Deutsche Boerse-London Stock Exchange Merger Deal.  An attempted merger between the German and British stock exchanges was struck down by European regulators on Wednesday, formally ending a deal that unraveled in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.  “We could not approve this merger on the terms … proposed,” said European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, blocking the 29 billion-euro ($31 billion) deal to combine Deutsche Boerse and the London Stock Exchange.  A merger would have created Europe’s biggest stock exchange. But the European Commission objected, saying the deal, which was the pair’s fifth attempt to combine, would have resulted in a monopoly in the processing of bond trades.

U.S. Judge Throws Out Many Metals Price-Fixing Claims.  A U.S. judge on Tuesday significantly narrowed private litigation accusing several big banks and German chemical giant BASF SE of conspiring to suppress platinum and palladium prices.  U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods in Manhattan dismissed claims against BASF, Switzerland’s UBS Group AG, South Africa’s Standard Bank Group Ltd. and the London Platinum and Palladium Fixing Co.  In a 104-page decision in the proposed class-action case, Woods said dismissal was appropriate because of a lack of proof these defendants conspired to fix prices, had sufficient ties to the United States, or both.  The judge also dismissed claims that Goldman Sachs Group Inc and HSBC Holdings Plc violated the U.S. antitrust law known as the Sherman Act, saying the plaintiffs were not “efficient enforcers” of that law.

Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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