February 8, 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.

EU antitrust chief considers lower fines for cooperating companies.  European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager  is suggesting that companies that admit to breaking the law should be rewarded with lower fines to help speed up antitrust investigations.  The European Commission typically takes several years to wrap up cases, which critics say is not helpful for consumers or competitors.  According to the EU’s top antitrust regulator, the EU “should reward companies that admit to having broken the law, especially when they come up with remedies to make the markets more competitive, or companies that provide evidence voluntarily.”

Citigroup reaches $23 mln ‘ice breaker’ yen Libor settlement.  Citigroup will pay $23 million to end private U.S. antitrust litigation claiming that it conspired to manipulate the yen Libor and Euroyen Tibor benchmark interest rates.  Lawyers for the plaintiff investors are calling the agreement an “ice breaker” that could spur some of the roughly 20 other bank defendants to settle.  Court approval of the settlement agreement is required.  RP Martin, a brokerage whose main assets are now part of BGC Partners Inc, also settled, without making a payment.

Judge Deals Blow to New Rodeo Circuit, but Lets Antitrust Suit Continue.  Judge Barbara Lynn of U.S. District Court in Dallas has ruled that new bylaws meant to protect the long-established Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association from competing rodeo circuits are enforceable, a blow to a group of top rodeo athletes planning a satellite circuit this year.  But the court also denied the association’s motion to dismiss a broader antitrust lawsuit filed by Elite Rodeo Athletes, whose nine-city tour is scheduled to stretch from March to November.  The suit came after the P.R.C.A. rewrote bylaws, including one that said that anyone with a financial interest in a competing circuit would not be eligible to compete in any of the hundreds of P.R.C.A.-sanctioned rodeos held each year.

German competition watchdog wants ‘big data’ hoards considered in merger probes: paper.  The vast troves of consumer data held by big Internet companies should be scrutinized in merger probes because they have a big impact on competition, according to the president of the German antitrust watchdog.  “Until now, markets in which no money flows and in which no revenues are posted do not count as markets from a competition point of view. But that obviously goes against the logic of many Internet markets,” Andreas Mundt told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

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

    February 1, 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.

    NY’s top prosecutor targets NFL in antitrust probe – source.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly conducting an antitrust investigation of the NFL and its practice of imposing “price-floors” on certain tickets as part of an ongoing probe into the online ticketing market.  The antitrust investigation grew out of a probe by the attorney general’s office into irregularities in the ticketing industry, which found that ticket brokers were using illegal software programs to snap up thousands of tickets and reselling them with huge price markups.

    EU Slaps $150 Million Cartel Fine on Car Parts Producers.  The European Union is fining two Japanese car part producers $150 million for fixing prices for alternators and starters for more than half a decade.  Melco will have to pay the biggest fine of 110.9 million euros, with Hitachi having to pay 26.9 million euros.  A third company, Denso, was not fined since it disclosed the case to the EU’s antitrust office.  Although the collusion may have occurred outside of the 28-nation EU, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that her office would still pursue the case since EU consumers were hurt by artificially high prices.

    Exclusive: EU to give unconditional approval to Schlumberger deal – sources.  The world’s biggest oilfield services company, Schlumberger, is set to gain unconditional EU approval for its $14.8 billion bid for equipment maker Cameron International Corp, according to sources.  The acquisition will enable Schlumberger to offer a broader range of products at lower prices to oil companies, which are slashing spending in response to falling oil prices, and boost its market share.  Some antitrust experts have said the two U.S. companies offer complementary product lines, meaning the deal would draw less regulatory scrutiny.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

      January 25, 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.

      Cable Acquisitions by Charter Communications Face Rising Opposition.  Comcast’s failed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable collapsed last year under pressure from regulators, who found that the combined company would have had both the power and incentive to inhibit the future of streaming video.  Now, as rival Charter Communications seeks approval for its $67.1 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, critics point to the same potential for harm.  “If Comcast’s deal for Time Warner Cable was a Category 5 hurricane, Charter-Time Warner is a Category 4,” according to Jeff Blum, deputy general counsel of Dish Network, the satellite television provider.

      European Antitrust Chief Takes Swipe at Privacy Issue.  Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, is warning that the collection of a vast amount of users’ data by a small number of tech companies like Google and Facebook could be in violation of the EU’s tough competition rules.  Ms. Vestager’s comments are the latest in a growing chorus of European criticism about the privacy practices of American tech giants, many of which rely on crunching data based on people’s social media posts, online search queries and e-commerce purchases to fuel their digital advertising businesses.  “If a few companies control the data you need to cut costs, then you give them the power to drive others out of the market,” Ms. Vestager said at a conference of digital executives and policy makers.

      Hollywood studios, Sky spar with EU antitrust regulator.  NBCUniversal, Disney and four other U.S. studios together with Sky UK are pushing back against European Union charges of anticompetitive movie-licensing deals ahead of a decision later this year.  The companies’ defense comes six months after the European Commission accused them of preventing consumers outside Britain and Ireland from accessing films and other content broadcast by the British pay-TV group.  The accusations by the EU antitrust enforcer came amid a campaign to end restrictions hindering cross-border trade, aimed at boosting e-commerce and growth in the 28-country bloc.

      U.S. FTC probes Turing over drug prices, Shkreli’s lawyer says.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating Turing Pharmaceuticals for possible antitrust violations in connection with the company’s decision to hike the price of a life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent, according to a lawyer for former Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli.  The investigation was disclosed in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from Baruch Weiss, Shkreli’s lawyer, as grounds for why his client would not answer questions about drug prices at a Jan. 26 hearing.  The committee had subpoenaed Shkreli, who has been indicted separately on securities fraud charges, to appear to discuss why, as Turing’s CEO, he decided to raise the price of Daraprim to $750 a tablet from $13.50.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

        January 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.

        AB InBev Faces In-Depth U.S. Antitrust Review on SABMiller Deal.  U.S. antitrust officials are expanding their investigation of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s planned takeover of SABMiller Plc.  The Justice Department’s antitrust division has issued a second request to the beer maker, according to the company.  The inquiry signals an expansion of the antitrust enforcers’ review of how the combination would affect competition and prices for beer.

        EU Looks Into Consumer Complaint Against McDonald’s.  The European Union is reviewing an antitrust complaint by an alliance of Italian consumer groups that is accusing fast-food giant McDonald’s of abusing its dominant position at the expense of both its franchisees and consumers.  The consumer groups, which are backed by trade unions, claim that McDonald’s forces franchisees to lease property it owns at excessive prices and imposes restrictive contracts.

        Exclusive: State attorneys general joining probe of health insurer mergers.  About 15 state attorneys general have joined the U.S. Justice Department’s probe of two big insurance mergers, according to sources, increasing the scrutiny on proposed deals that would reduce the number of nationwide health insurers to three from five.  The formation of this large group to scrutinize both Aetna Inc’s plan to buy Humana Inc and Anthem Inc’s bid for Cigna Corp complicate what was already expected to be a tough and lengthy review by federal antitrust enforcers.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

          January 11, 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.

          Goldman, JPMorgan, Glencore defeat U.S. lawsuit over zinc prices.  A U.S. judge dismissed a private antitrust lawsuit in which zinc purchasers accused affiliates of Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Glencore Plc of conspiring to drive up prices.  In an 87-page decision, Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said purchasers failed to show that the defendants artificially inflated zinc prices in violation of the Sherman Act.  The court ruled that although  “[i]t remains possible that shenanigans drove up the price of physical zinc,” plaintiffs failed to adequately allege “that such price movement was due to a plausible antitrust violation, as opposed to parallel, unilateral conduct beyond the reach of that statutory scheme.”

          Orange in talks to acquire Bouygues Telecom.  French telecommunications giant Orange has revealed that it is in talks to acquire Bouygues Telecom, a local rival, in the latest effort to consolidate Europe’s highly fragmented cellphone market.  Consolidation in the market has been delayed after European antitrust officials warned that takeovers in the region’s telecom sector could lead to increased prices and a lack of choice for consumers.  Orange has more than 260 million subscribers worldwide, including 28 million in France.  Bouygues Telecom has 14 million customers, all in France.

          NY orders UnitedHealth to pay $100,000 to settle antitrust probe.  The New York Attorney General has ordered UnitedHealth Group to pay a $100,000 fine after an investigation found the insurance provider engaged in anti-competitive practices involving elder and long-term care products, according to a source.  Reportedly, the settlement focuses on efforts by UnitedHealth to force nursing homes to purchase other additional unwanted insurance services in order to participate in the insurance carrier’s broader network.  In addition to paying a fine to settle the case, UnitedHealth also agreed to cease its practice of requiring nursing homes to purchase multiple insurance products.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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