January 17, 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.

Obama’s Work to Limit Mergers May Stop With Trump Administration.  A nascent effort by the Obama administration to limit corporate consolidation, begun after officials concluded that a lack of competition was hurting the American economy, appears to be coming to an abrupt end as the Trump administration takes charge.  President-elect Donald J. Trump railed against media company mergers on the campaign trail, promising to block the proposed combination of AT&T and Time Warner, but conservatives and liberals alike say they see no evidence Mr. Trump will be worried about the continuing rise of megacompanies in other parts of the economy once he takes office.

U.S. Appeals Court Revives Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple.  iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc. over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.  The  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling revives a long-simmering legal challenge originally filed in 2012 taking aim at Apple’s practice of only allowing iPhones to run apps purchased from its own App Store.  A group of iPhone users sued saying the Cupertino, California, company’s practice was anticompetitive.

Source: Obama DOJ Won’t Push Antitrust Case Against Airlines.  The Justice Department, which started investigating alleged collusion between the nation’s major airlines in mid-2015, will not bring an antitrust case against the carriers before the Obama administration leaves office at the end of next week, according to a person familiar with the situation.  The civil investigation has not been closed, cautioned the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Justice Department has not announced anything publicly.

AT&T Chief Executive, Trump Meet Amid Planned Time Warner Merger.  AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson on Thursday met in New York with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, an opponent of the company’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc.  A spokeswoman for Trump confirmed the meeting after Stephenson was seen entering Trump Tower.  Stephenson, who was accompanied by Robert Quinn, AT&T’s senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, would not answer questions from reporters.  AT&T said later on Thursday that the company’s $85.4 billion deal for Time Warner was not discussed.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

    January 9, 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. Bucked Rest of World on Antitrust Enforcement in 2016.  It was a record year for antitrust cartel enforcement in 2016, with $6.7 billion in total fines levied — but not in the U.S., which had its slowest year in a decade, according to a new report.  Even as the European Union levied a record $4.1 billion in antitrust fines, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division’s total fines nosedived to $387 million in 2016 — down from a record $2.85 billion in 2015.

    U.S. Loses Bid to Overturn AmEx Antitrust Decision.  A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected the U.S. government’s request that it reconsider its decision allowing American Express to stop merchants from encouraging customers to use rival cards that charge lower fees.  Without comment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit let stand its Sept. 26 reversal of a lower court ruling that had struck down AmEx’s “anti-steering” rules.  That reversal by a three-judge panel allowed New York-based AmEx to block merchants that accept its cards from steering customers to rivals Visa and MasterCard, even if such steering would have saved them money.

    Former Barclays Trader Pleads Guilty in Currency Manipulation Conspiracy.  A former Barclays trader pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges arising from a global investigation into the manipulation of foreign-exchange prices at major banks, according to the U.S. Justice Department.  Jason Katz, a former Barclays trader who later worked at BNP Paribas, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to participating in a price-fixing conspiracy, becoming the first person to admit criminal wrongdoing in the inquiry.  Mr. Katz’s plea came after Barclays and three other banks pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to manipulate currency prices.

    Euronext Offers to Buy Unit of London Stock Exchange for $536 Million.  Euronext said on Tuesday that it had offered to buy the French arm of the London Stock Exchange Group’s majority-owned clearing business, as the British company looks to win regulatory approval for a merger with Deutsche Börse.  The London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Börse agreed in March to a merger, which would create Europe’s largest stock market operator by far, combining exchanges in Britain, Germany and Italy.  In July, shareholders from the two exchanges approved the deal, the companies’ third attempt to come together since 2000.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

      January 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.

      Russia’s Gazprom Files Proposals to EU Aimed at Ending Antitrust Case.  Russia’s Gazprom said it had filed proposals with the European Commission aimed at resolving a five-year EU case over the Russian gas giant’s alleged monopoly practices.  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.

      South Korean Antitrust Regulator Fines Qualcomm $865 Million.   South Korea’s antitrust regulator slapped a 1.03 trillion won ($865 million) fine on Qualcomm Inc. Wednesday for allegedly violating competition laws.  The Fair Trade Commission said that the San Diego, California-based company had engaged in unfair business practices in patent licensing and chip sales, including refusing to let rival chipmakers license patents essential for chip making.  The FTC said Qualcomm allegedly used its dominant position in the modem chip market to force handset makers to pay license fees for a broad set of patents under terms it set unilaterally and to coerce handset makers into signing licensing contracts.

      Abbott Gets U.S. Antitrust Approval to Buy St. Jude Medical.  Healthcare company Abbott Laboratories has won U.S. antitrust approval for its proposed $25 billion acquisition of medical device maker St. Jude Medical Inc., the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said.  Abbott agreed to divest two medical devices used in cardiovascular procedures to resolve FTC concerns the acquisition would stifle competition, the commission said in a statement.  “We continue to work to obtain final regulatory approvals and anticipate closing before the end of the year or shortly thereafter,” Abbott spokeswoman Elissa Maurer said in an email.

      FTC Seeks More Iinfo on Bass Pro-Cabela’s Deal.  U.S. fishing and hunting equipment retailer Cabela’s Inc., which is being bought by privately held rival Bass Pro Shops, said the Federal Trade Commission had sought more information from the companies about the deal.  As part of the proposed $5.5 billion deal, announced in October, Capital One Financial Corp. had said it would buy Cabela’s credit card business and signed a 10-year partnership with Bass Pro to issue credit cards to Cabela’s customers.  On Friday, Cabela’s said Capital One had informed the company that it does not expect to get approval for acquiring the credit card business, called World’s Foremost Bank, before Oct. 3, 2017, hence not allowing the deal to close in the first half of 2017.

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

        December 27, 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.

        AMC wins U.S. antitrust approval to buy Carmike Cinemas with conditions. AMC Entertainment Holdings won U.S. antitrust approval with conditions to buy smaller competitor Carmike Cinemas Inc in a $1.2 billion deal that would create the biggest U.S. movie theater chain.  The U.S. Justice Department said it approved the deal on condition that AMC and Carmike divest theaters in 15 markets and take steps to ensure that National Cinemedia and Screenvision, the two companies that make and sell pre-show advertising entertainment, remain viable.  Kansas-based AMC, which is majority-owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group, has about 380 theaters, while Georgia-based Carmike has 276 theaters, according to their websites.

        American Airlines wins $15 million in antitrust case against Sabre. American Airlines Group Inc won about $15.3 million in an antitrust lawsuit that accused airline booking service Sabre Corp of harming competition and charging grossly inflated booking fees.  The Manhattan federal jury awarded nearly $5.1 million, a fraction of the up to $73 million American Airlines was seeking at trial.  But the sum automatically will be tripled under federal antitrust law.

        G.M.’s Venture in China Fined $29 Million Under Antimonopoly Law. General Motors’s main joint venture in China was fined $29 million on Friday on charges that it suppressed competition by enforcing minimum sales prices for dealers.  It is the latest in a string of penalties against non-Chinese auto brands under the country’s antimonopoly law.  Chinese regulators have punished companies in several industries, like milk and medical devices, under the 2008 law in what appears to be an effort to force down consumer prices.

        Rite Aid to sell 865 stores to Fred’s. Rite Aid Corp said it would sell 865 stores to Fred’s Inc for $950 million to satisfy antitrust concerns over its proposed takeover by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.  Rite Aid and Walgreens were widely expected to divest stores in states where the combined company would have a particularly strong position.  Walgreens has 13,200 stores, nearly 60 percent of which are in the United States, while Rite Aid has 4,570 stores in the United States.  Walgreens said in October 2015 it would buy smaller peer Rite Aid for $9.4 billion to widen its U.S. footprint.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          December 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.

          U.S. Files First Charges in Generic Drug Price-Fixing Probe.  The U.S. Department of Justice accused two former generic pharmaceutical executives on Wednesday of colluding with other generic manufacturers to fix prices, the first criminal charges stemming from a two-year investigation.  The executives, Jeffrey Glazer and Jason Malek, were charged in Philadelphia with conspiring to fix the prices of an antibiotic, doxycycline hyclate, and to split up the market for glyburide, a diabetes drug, the Justice Department said.  Their former employer, Heritage Pharmaceuticals, filed a lawsuit against them in August, saying in a complaint they were behind a “brazen theft” and “looted tens of millions of dollars from Heritage by misappropriating its business opportunities, fraudulently obtaining compensation for themselves, and embezzling its intellectual property.”

          20 States Accuse Generic Drug Companies of Price Fixing.  A wide-ranging investigation into generic drug prices took its most significant turn yet on Thursday, as state attorneys general accused two industry leaders, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Mylan, and four smaller companies of engaging in brazen price-fixing schemes — and promised that more charges were coming.  A civil complaint filed by 20 states accuses the companies of conspiring to artificially inflate prices on an antibiotic and a diabetes drug, with executives coordinating through informal industry gatherings and personal calls and text messages.  Officials said the case was a small example of broader problems in the drug business.

          Omnicom, Publicis get DoJ Subpoenas Over Video Production Practices.  Subsidiaries for advertising companies Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe were subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice, both companies said on Friday.  The Justice Department’s antitrust division has been investigating whether ad agencies had rigged bids to favor in-house production units.

          U.S. Seeks to Undercut Aetna CEO’s Defense in Merger Fight.  The U.S. Justice Department sought to knock down arguments by Aetna Inc.’s chief executive that Medicare Advantage competes with government insurance programs, making Aetna’s proposed merger with Humana legal under antitrust law.  The Justice Department initiated a lawsuit to stop the merger in July.  Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will likely allow the deal to go forward if he agrees with Aetna that traditional Medicare, managed by the government, competes with Medicare Advantage, run by insurers.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement

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