November 21, 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.

U.S. Supreme Court Allows ATM Fees Lawsuits to Proceed.  The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday gave the green light to class action lawsuits by consumers accusing Visa Inc, Mastercard Inc. and several U.S. banks of conspiring to inflate the prices of ATM access fees in violation of antitrust law.  The justices dismissed two related cases they earlier had agreed to hear in which the companies had sought to overturn an August 2015 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that had revived the three lawsuits.  In the order, the court said the cases were dismissed because the companies had changed their legal arguments after the justices agreed to hear the dispute.

Microsoft Offers EU Concessions Over Its $26 Billion LinkedIn Bid.  Microsoft has offered concessions to EU antitrust regulators over its $26 billion bid for social network LinkedIn, the European Commission said on Wednesday, as the U.S. software company seeks to allay concerns over its largest ever deal.  The move came after the EU competition enforcer expressed concerns about the deal at a meeting with Microsoft executives last week.  The Commission is expected to seek feedback from rivals and customers before deciding whether to accept the concessions, demand more or open a full investigation.

U.S. Tentatively Blocks American Airlines-Qantas Expansion.  Plans by American Airlines and Qantas Airways to expand their alliance for flights between the United States and Australasia were tentatively denied by the U.S. Transportation Department on Friday, the agency said, citing competition concerns.  The carriers submitted their application in June 2015, several months before American started flights between the United States and Australia.  The partners had been marketing flights on routes that the other did not offer, and requested immunity from U.S. antitrust law in order to coordinate prices and schedules.

EU Regulators Readying Fines for HSBC, JPMorgan, Credit Agricole – Sources.  EU antitrust regulators are set to fine Europe’s biggest bank HSBC, JPMorgan and Credit Agricole by the end of the year for rigging financial benchmarks linked to the euro, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.  Charges were levied in May 2014 against the three banks, which denied wrongdoing.  The European Commission could penalize HSBC, JPMorgan and Credit Agricole next month, the sources said.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

    November 17, 2016

    New York Attorney General Scores For NFL Fans With NFL Agreement To Drop Mandatory Price Floor On Ticket Resales

    By James J. Kovacs

    New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced a multi-state settlement with the National Football League (“NFL”) eliminating the NFL’s league-wide usage of a “mandatory price floor” in the secondary ticket market.

    NFL rules had required all 32 teams to impose a mandatory price floor on secondary market ticket sales, not only on the NFL-owned Ticket Exchange website, but also on third-party websites sanctioned by the league as secondary market ticket retailers. Under the NFL’s price floor policy, an official seller was not permitted to list tickets for resale at a price lower than the face-value of the ticket.  As a result, NFL fans were forced to pay artificially inflated prices for tickets across the country.

    While the mandatory price floor was halted during the investigation, the settlement requires that the NFL will “not reinstate” the league-wide price floor for 10 years. In addition to providing for a small monetary payment to be made to the settling states, the settlement also requires the NFL to refrain from implementing ticketing technologies designed to eliminate competition on the secondary ticket exchanges—a provision which protects resale sites such as StubHub, which have seen their market share squeezed by ticketing rules.  Constantine Cannon has represented StubHub in connection with its challenges to practices that restrain trade in the secondary ticket market.

    The NFL settlement is the latest action taken by New York Attorney General’s Office against ticketing practices that it has alleged are unfair and raise costs to consumers. The office issued report earlier this year outlining the harms of mandatory price floors and ticketing fees designed to raise ticket prices on New Yorkers. In June, New York passed legislation proposed by Attorney General Schneiderman to increase penalties on the use of “ticket bots,” programs designed to scoop up large amount of tickets and then resell at higher prices.

    New York’s NFL mandatory price floor investigation and settlement was joined by the Attorneys General of the states of Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

     

    Edited by Gary J. Malone

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    Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

      November 7, 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.

      A New Movement in Liberal Economics that Could Shape Hillary Clinton’s Agenda.  If you want to know what economic policy would look like in a Hillary Clinton administration, you can read her speeches or policy positions or look at the backgrounds of the advisers she surrounds herself with.

      But it’s also worth examining a 21-page briefing paper issued on Oct. 25 by Obama White House economists about an important concept with a forbidding name: labor market monopsony.  The paper is a prime example of the direction left-of-center economic policy is going, evident not just in the Obama administration’s second-term priorities but in a range of work at liberal think tanks and in Mrs. Clinton’s own economic proposals.

      Google Formally Rejects EU Antitrust Charge.  Google on Thursday formally rejected European Union antitrust charges of unfairly promoting its shopping service and blocking rivals in online search advertising, paving the way for EU regulators to rule next year on these issues and potentially impose hefty fines.  The U.S. technology giant’s rebuttal in the shopping case came six years after the European Commission opened an investigation prompted by complaints from rivals such as Microsoft and a host of European and U.S. rivals.

      News of Charges in Price-Fixing Inquiry Sends Pharmaceuticals Tumbling.  The generic drug industry was jolted on Thursday as shares of many major companies tumbled after a news report said that a federal inquiry into drug price-fixing was wider than previously believed and could lead to charges by the end of the year.  Shares in Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s largest generic drug maker, fell more than 9 percent, and the stock of competitors like Mylan, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Impax Laboratories had similar declines.  The report, from Bloomberg, said that the investigation, being done by the Justice Department, was looking at more than a dozen companies, and that the prices of about two dozen drugs were involved.

      U.S. Tentatively Grants Antitrust Approval for Delta, Aeromexico Alliance.  The U.S. Transportation Department said Friday it has tentatively granted antitrust immunity for a proposed alliance between Delta Air Lines Inc and Grupo Aeromexico SAB de CV, requiring the carriers to divest some slots in New York and Mexico City.  The airlines plan to operate a joint venture between the U.S. and Mexico.  The U.S. Transportation Department is proposing the carriers divest enough takeoff and landing authorizations to allow 24 new daily international flights from Mexico City and six new daily flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

        October 31, 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.

        Swift Opposition to Resurrection of AT&T Giant.  Over three decades ago, such was AT&T’s monopoly over the nation’s communications networks that the government forcefully shattered its empire.  Now, as one of its successors again seeks a formidable business empire by buying Time Warner, lawmakers, analysts and advocacy groups are closely watching to see if the union, or any that follow in its wake, poses harm to consumers.  Reaction to AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase was swift — and, outside of Wall Street, full of skepticism.

        Italy Antitrust Agency Probes WhatsApp Messaging Service.  Italy’s antitrust watchdog said on Friday it had opened a probe into whether messaging service WhatsApp obliged users to agree to sharing personal data with its parent company Facebook and imposed “unfair” conditions on users.  WhatsApp said in August it would start sharing phone numbers with the social network, prompting European regulators to declare they would put the matter under close scrutiny.  The Italian agency said it was investigating whether the WhatsApp application had led users to believe they would have not been able to continue using it unless they agreed to terms and conditions including the sharing of personal data.

        Qualcomm Must Woo EU Antitrust Foes to Win Blessing for NXP.  Qualcomm Inc., locked in a lengthy fight with the European Union over antitrust fines, must woo the same regulator to win clearance for its $47 billion-dollar takeover of NXP Semiconductors NV.  The bid for NXP is the largest transaction in the history of the semiconductor industry, requiring approval from the European Commission, the EU’s competition watchdog, and other global merger authorities.  For Qualcomm, it will mean going cap in hand to Brussels to get its deal through just as it fights two EU antitrust cases that could lead to possible fines as soon as next year.

        Gazprom Putting ‘Final Touch’ to EU Antitrust Deal.  Gazprom is finalizing a deal with European Union regulators to end a five-year antitrust case and avoid fines, signaling a thaw in business relations between Moscow and Brussels despite tensions over Ukraine and Syria.  The Russian state gas exporter, which supplies a third of the EU’s gas, has been on the European Commission’s radar since 2012, culminating in charges last year that it overcharged customers in eastern and central Europe and blocked rivals.  Since then, Gazprom has offered concessions aimed at staving off a potential fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

          October 24, 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.

          AT&T to Pay $85 Billion for Time Warner, Create Telecom-Media Giant.  AT&T said on Saturday it agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion, the boldest move yet by a telecommunications company to acquire content to stream over its network to attract a growing number of online viewers.  The biggest deal in the world this year will, if approved by regulators, give AT&T control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets.  The tie-up will likely face intense scrutiny by U.S. antitrust enforcers worried that AT&T might try to limit distribution of Time Warner material.

          Deutsche Bank to Pay $38 Million in U.S. Silver Price-Fixing Case.  Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay $38 million to settle U.S. litigation over allegations it illegally conspired with other banks to fix silver prices at the expense of investors, according to court papers.  The settlement, disclosed in papers filed in federal court in Manhattan, came in one of many recent lawsuits in which investors have accused banks of conspiring to rig rates and prices in financial and commodities markets.  The settlement had been expected since April, though terms had yet to be disclosed.

          Intel’s $1.4B Antitrust Verdict Should be Reviewed, Top EU Judge Says.  Intel’s hope of recovering a record antitrust fine have improved with a recommendation from a top European Union judge on Thursday that the case be reviewed.  The company paid the 1.06 billion euro (then US$1.4 billion) fine in 2009 after the European Commission found it guilty of abusing its dominant position in the market for x86 processors.  Since then, it has been seeking to have the judgment overturned, first by the EU’s General Court and then, since 2014, by the EU’s highest legal authority, the Court of Justice.

          EU Regulators Want to Know if LinkedIn Data is Unique: Sources.  EU antitrust regulators want to know whether LinkedIn’s data is unique, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday, which could be key to their decision on Microsoft’s $26 billion bid for the social network.  The European Commission earlier this week sent questionnaires to third parties, asking for their views on the subject after Microsoft sought approval for its biggest ever acquisition.  One of the questions asked whether LinkedIn’s data from its 433 million professionals is unique and whether it can be replicated, and to what extent substitutes exist for LinkedIn, the people said.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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