February 29, 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.

Dow Chemical settles price-fixing case after Justice Scalia’s death. Dow Chemical has agreed to pay $835 million to settle a decade-long lawsuit on price fixing, saying that the death of Justice Antonin Scalia lessened its chances of overturning the verdict at the Supreme Court.  Dow, which is in the process of merging with Dupont, said on Friday that it decided to settle, without admitting any wrongdoing, citing “growing political uncertainties due to recent events within the Supreme Court.”  Dow had filed a petition in the Supreme Court arguing that a 2013 class-action judgment that Dow had conspired to artificially inflate polyurethane prices violated class action law in multiple ways, particularly with respect to two rulings authored by Justice Scalia, one in 2011 favoring Wal-Mart Stores and another in 2013 favoring Comcast.

Honeywell Persists in Pursuit of United Technologies. Honeywell has made clear that it is not walking away from its proposed takeover of United Technologies, as a potential battle between the industrial giants became more public on Friday.  In publishing an 11-page pitch to United Technologies on the merits of a merger, Honeywell sought to sway shareholders of its competitor.  Later on Friday, United Technologies issued its latest rebuttal, again contending that a merger of the two—which would yield a nearly $160 billion conglomerate whose offerings run from building cooling systems to advanced jet engines—would never survive antitrust scrutiny.

EU halts Halliburton, Baker Hughes deal review, awaits details. European Union antitrust regulators have halted their scrutiny of U.S. oilfield services provider Halliburton’s proposed takeover of Baker Hughes because the companies failed to provide some details of the $35 billion deal.  “This is a standard procedure on merger investigations which is activated if the notifying parties do not provide an important piece of information that the Commission has requested from them,” European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso stated.  The EU competition authority will set a new deadline for its decision when it has the required information from the companies.  Antitrust regulators are worried that higher prices and less innovation may follow the proposed merger.

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Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, 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

      July 13, 2015

      The Antitrust Week In Review

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

      MasterCard Faces Antitrust Charges in E.U.  European antitrust officials have filed formal charges against MasterCard, accusing the company of harming consumers and retailers by setting artificially high fees for credit card transactions in Europe.  The European Commission said MasterCard had prevented some retailers from processing transactions in countries with lower fees. The commission also said that MasterCard’s fees were unfair to tourists traveling in Europe.

      FTC exploring Apple rules for streaming music rivals in App Store.  U.S. government antitrust regulators are investigating claims that Apple’s treatment of rival streaming music apps is illegal under antitrust law, according to industry sources.  Apple recently launched a new music streaming service, Apple Music.  It also provides the App Store platform for competing streaming services including Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others.

      States line up to scrutinize Aetna’s $33 Billion Humana deal.  U.S. insurance regulators and state attorneys general are lining up to examine Aetna Inc’s proposed $33 billion takeover of rival Humana Inc. for potential harm to consumers, complicating what was already expected to be a tough review by federal antitrust authorities.  Insurance commissioners in 18 states including Texas, Kentucky and Florida will study merger documents provided by Humana to determine whether the deal will harm competition and lead to higher insurance premiums or diminished access to healthcare providers.  Moreover, while the U.S. Department of Justice is taking the lead on scrutinizing the transaction, at least three state attorneys general – in Florida, Mississippi and Massachusetts – have stated they will look at the proposed acquisition as well.

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      Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

        July 6, 2015

        The Antitrust Week In Review

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

        Airlines Under Justice Dept. Investigation Over Possible Collusion.  Federal prosecutors are investigating possible collusion among airlines to limit seating, two years after the U.S. Department of Justice approved the latest in a wave of airline mergers, saying the combination would benefit consumers.  In letters sent to airlines, federal prosecutors have asked for documents from the last two years related to statements and decisions they have made about limiting capacity on flight routes.  By making it harder for passengers to find seats, airlines could restrain competition and increase fares.

        Apple ‘assessing next steps’ after e-books antitrust ruling.  Apple is assessing its next steps after the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirming the district court decision that the iPad maker conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices.  In a statement issued after the appellate court handed down its 2-1 decision, the company maintained that it did not conspire to fix e-book prices, as the U.S. Department of Justice contends.

        Study Suggests That Google Has Its Thumb on Scale in Search.  A study by top academics at Harvard and Columbia suggests that Google sometimes alters results to play up its own content.  The study, which was paid for by  Yelp, the online review website that is one of Google’s rivals, could renew calls for government regulators — in particular, the Federal Trade Commission — to reopen an investigation into Google for unfairly promoting its own services.  The study may also provide ammunition to antitrust regulators in Europe who have accused the company of antitrust violations.

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        Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Litigation

          January 7, 2015

          European Commission Announces Agreement To Cap Interchange Fees For Card-Based Payments

          A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

          By Yulia Tosheva and James Ashe-Taylor

          The European Commission has announced that the European Parliament and the European Council have reached a long-awaited political agreement on the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on Interchange Fees for Card-based Payment Transactions.

          The Regulation will introduce maximum fees for four-party card schemes’ consumer debit and credit cards, prevent card schemes from forcing retailers to accept all types of cards regardless of their fees, and establish transparency rules for all transactions. The Commission has already ruled that interchange fees set by MasterCard are in violation of EU antitrust laws and, after a seven-year court battle, MasterCard lost its final appeal before the European Court of Justice in September 2014.

          Interchange fees represent about 70% of the approximately 13 billion euros a year retailers pay banks to handle payment card transactions. The Regulation is expected to have a profound impact on the card industry as a whole but its effect is likely to be particularly felt in markets such as Germany, where average credit card rates stand at 1.8%, and Poland, where average debit card charges are 1.6%.

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          Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Legislation, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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