April 24, 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 Denies Report of Talks with Justice Dept.Regarding Merger.  Health insurer Anthem Inc. denied a report on Thursday that it was in negotiations with the Justice Department in an effort to save its merger with smaller rival Cigna Corp.  The companies are awaiting a decision from a federal appeals court, which had been asked to rule on whether the Justice Department could stop the $54 billion merger on antitrust grounds.  The lawsuit was originally brought by the Obama administration and a federal judge agreed that the deal should be stopped.

AT&T’s Words on Time Warner Deal Say ‘Underdog.’  Its Actions Speak Otherwise.  In the nation’s capital, AT&T has painted itself as an underdog that needs to merge with Time Warner in a blockbuster $85 billion deal to compete with powerful cable companies.  But in several cities and states, AT&T has positioned itself as the incumbent telecommunications juggernaut that has acted to hamper competitors locally.  With its giant deal with Time Warner under review at the Justice Department, AT&T’s contrasting federal and local actions are glaring.

Appeals Court Skeptical of Piercing MLB Antitrust Exemption.  A three-court panel of federal appeals judges was skeptical of a lawyer for minor league baseball players who wants to pierce the sport’s antitrust exemption.  Sergio Miranda, an infielder drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2007, sued Major League Baseball, then-Commissioner Bud Selig and the 30 clubs in 2014 along with several other minor leaguers, alleging the sport’s minor league reserve system violates federal antitrust law. The suit was dismissed on Sept. 24, 2015, by U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., and the minor leaguers wants the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the action.

Fed Fines Deutsche Bank $156.6 Million for Forex Violations.  The U.S. Federal Reserve on Thursday fined Deutsche Bank AG $156.6 million for violating foreign exchange rules and running afoul of the Volcker Rule.  The German bank failed to detect and halt its traders from using chat rooms to communicate with competitors, the Fed said in a statement.  Central bank officials are “requiring the firm to cooperate in any investigation of the individuals involved in the conduct underlying the FX enforcement,” according to the statement.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, General, International Competition Issues

    April 10, 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.

    Qualcomm, NXP receive antitrust approval.  Smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm Inc has received approval from U.S. antitrust regulators for its proposed $47 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors NV, Qualcomm said in a statement on Tuesday.  The waiting period required for companies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act has expired, the company said.  Additionally, Qualcomm said it is extending its cash tender offer for all outstanding shares of NXP.

    US, EU Clear Chinese Takeover of Syngenta.  U.S. and European regulators have cleared a Chinese conglomerate’s proposed $43 billion acquisition of Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta on condition it sells some businesses to satisfy anti-monopoly objections.  The Federal Trade Commission’s announcement comes alongside the approval by European regulators of the purchase by state-owned ChemChina.  It would be China’s biggest foreign acquisition to date.  ChemChina, also known as China National Chemical Corp., agreed to sell businesses that make an herbicide, an insecticide and a fungicide whose combined market shares with Syngenta would harm competition, the FTC and European Commission say.

    McDonald’s accused of antitrust practices in France, Italy and Germany.  McDonald’s was accused in three separate complaints Tuesday of improperly driving up consumer costs in France, Italy, and Germany by forcing the company’s franchisees to swallow antitrust practices.  The fast-food giant abused its dominant market positions by requiring its franchise holders in the three European nations to display higher prices than those at company-operated sites, according to complaints that labor and consumer groups filed with competition authorities in those countries.  McDonald’s also charges excessively higher rents for franchise locations and imposes terms that restrict franchisees from shifting to other brands, the complaints allege.

    Judge Puts Seattle Law Allowing Ride-Hailing Union on Hold.  A federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday temporarily blocked the city’s first-in-the-nation law allowing drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize over pay and working conditions.  U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik’s ruling came after he heard arguments last week in a case brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The chamber argues that federal antitrust and labor law trumps the city’s statute.  The judge said the chamber was unlikely to succeed on those claims or its chances were not clear but he put the law on hold because the lawsuits raised serious questions.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Law and Monopolies, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      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.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        March 27, 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.

        EU Antitrust Regulators Want More Power for National Watchdogs.  EU antitrust regulators outlined a proposal on Wednesday aimed at giving national watchdogs in the 28-country bloc more power to crack down on anti-competitive practices and also to ward off political interference.  The move by the European Commission came after a study it commissioned found shortcomings in the way competition agencies were equipped and structured, preventing them from doing their work effectively.  Antitrust experts say the EU antitrust authority was also concerned about the ousting of several high level officials at some national agencies by their governments in the last two years.

        Preliminary Approval Given to $208.7 Million NCAA Settlement.  About 40,000 college football and basketball players will not need to submit a claim to receive a portion of the $208.7 million the NCAA will pay to settle a federal class-action lawsuit that claimed the value of their athletic scholarships was illegally capped.  U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in California gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the settlement that was agreed upon by the NCAA and plaintiffs in February.

        DirecTV Settles U.S. Antitrust Lawsuit Over Dodgers Channel.  DirecTV settled a U.S. antitrust lawsuit that accused the satellite-television provider of colluding with its competitors during a 2014 standoff with Time Warner Cable Inc. over a channel devoted to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  DirecTV won’t share competitively sensitive information with rivals and agreed to a compliance program to make sure it abides by the settlement, according to an agreement filed Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles.

        Container Shipping Lines Ordered to Testify in U.S. Sector Probe.  The U.S. Justice Department has ordered top executives from several container shipping lines to testify in an antitrust investigation over practices by an industry that is the backbone of world trade, the companies said on Wednesday.  The world’s biggest container group, Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, together with second largest line MSC of Switzerland, Germany’s Hapag Lloyd, Taiwan-based Evergreen and Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line said their executives were among those who had been subpoenaed.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          March 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.

          Google foe takes Android complaint to regulators.  Open Internet Project, whose members include Axel Springer and Getty Images, on Tuesday accused Alphabet unit Google of imposing anti-competitive curbs on Android smartphone makers, its second complaint against the U.S. tech giant.  The group, which lodged a complaint about Google’s comparison shopping service with the European Commission about three years ago, urged the EU competition authority to take action.  “Google once again, in breach of EU antitrust rules, abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators, aiming to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search,” OIP said in a statement.

          Chicago hospital system scraps merger over U.S. antitrust concern.  NorthShore University HealthSystem said on Tuesday it was scrapping plans to merge with another Chicago hospital system after losing a court fight with U.S. antitrust regulators who said the merged hospital system would control more than half the area’s general acute care inpatient services.  NorthShore said in a statement that a federal judge had ruled for the Federal Trade Commission, which argued that NorthShore’s deal to merge with Advocate Health Care violated U.S. antitrust law and would harm consumers by hiking healthcare costs and reducing incentives to upgrade services and improve quality, according to the December, 2015 complaint.

          Turkey to Investigate Antitrust Complaint Against Google.  Google faced another regulatory challenge last week when the authorities in Turkey opened an investigation into whether the search giant’s popular Android software had broken the country’s antitrust rules.  The investigation in Turkey is the latest legal problem for Google, which faces three separate competition charges in Europe and has already been found to breach antitrust legislation in Russia.  United States officials have also investigated the company over its Android and search services, but they have not brought a case.

          Court Upholds Foundation’s Antitrust Immunity.  A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled Edinboro University and its foundation are protected from antitrust laws after a group of local landlords claimed a conspiracy to monopolize the student housing market around the public university in northwestern Pennsylvania.  But the decision more narrowly interprets the university’s governmental antitrust immunity than did a lower court’s ruling.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Law and Monopolies, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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