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 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 12, 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.

        E.U. Fines Three Banks About $520 Million for Interest Rate Collusion.  European antitrust regulators on Wednesday fined Crédit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase a total of just over 485 million euros for colluding to fix benchmark interest rates tied to the euro.  The penalties, equivalent to about $520 million, came more than two years after the European authorities issued a statement of objections — a formal step in antitrust investigations — against the three banks.  The inquiry began in 2011.

        On Antitrust, Trump Signals a Return to the Bush Years.  As self-styled populist Donald Trump prepares to take office, sector-shaping mergers in media and health care stand poised to remake huge swaths of the nation’s economy, prompting concern among Democrats and Republicans about how consumers may be affected.  Anthem is pursuing a $54 billion purchase of Cigna to create the nation’s largest health insurance company, Aetna is angling to acquire Humana for $37 billion, and AT&T hopes to complete an $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner – transactions that together would amount to 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.  Despite his populist rhetoric on the campaign trail, Trump’s appointments suggest he’ll pursue fewer protections for consumers.

        Aetna CEO Defends Merger with Humana in Antitrust Trial.  Aetna’s chief executive denied on Friday that Aetna’s withdrawal from some Obamacare exchanges was in retaliation for government efforts to halt its merger with Humana, as he sought to convince a federal judge to approve the deal.  The U.S. Justice Department sued to stop the $34 billion tie-up in July, saying that it and another insurance mega merger, Anthem’s planned purchase of Cigna, would mean higher prices and worse service for many consumers.

        Alaska Airlines Settles Lawsuit Against Virgin America Deal.  Alaska Airlines has removed its last major hurdle to buying Virgin America.  Alaska said Wednesday it agreed to settle a private antitrust lawsuit that threatened to hold up its $2.6 billion purchase of Virgin America.  The settlement came a day after the U.S. Justice Department approved the purchase, but only after Alaska agreed to scale back a partnership it has with American Airlines on some routes.

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

          December 5, 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.

          Trump Adds Antitrust Expert to Justice Transition Team.  A Republican antitrust veteran has been named to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team for the Justice Department, a choice that lawyers say signals a more hands-off approach to antitrust enforcement compared to Democratic President Barack Obama.  David Higbee, a partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams LLP, worked for President George W. Bush’s administration from 2001 to 2005, spending the last year in the Antitrust Division.  While Trump, who campaigned as a populist, has talked tough on media mergers such as AT&T Inc. buying Time Warner Inc., and singled out Amazon.com Inc. for antitrust scrutiny, Higbee’s naming heralds a return to a traditional Republican view of merger enforcement, lawyers said.

          Deutsche Bank to Pay $60 Million to Settle U.S. Gold Price-Fixing Case.  Deutsche Bank AG has agreed to pay $60 million to settle private U.S. antitrust litigation by traders and other investors who accused the German bank of conspiring to manipulate gold prices at their expense.  The preliminary settlement was filed on Friday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires a judge’s approval.

          Becton Dickinson Wins Reversal of $340 mln Syringe Award.  A federal appeals court on Friday threw out an antitrust verdict that ordered medical device maker Becton Dickinson and Co. to pay rival Retractable Technologies Inc. $340 million in damages over its marketing of safety syringes.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans called Retractable’s claim that Becton violated the Sherman Act by trying to monopolize the U.S. safety syringe market “infirm as a matter of law.”

          U.S. Judge Throws Out Kodak, Fujifilm Aluminum Price-Fixing Cases.  A U.S. judge on Wednesday threw out the last vestiges of private litigation over alleged aluminum price-fixing, dismissing lawsuits by Eastman Kodak Co., Fujifilm Holdings Corp., Reynolds Consumer Products and three other plaintiffs.  U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan on Oct. 5 dismissed nationwide litigation in which purchasers accused Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., mining company Glencore Plc and others of conspiring from 2009 to 2012 to boost prices by reducing supply.  Judge Forrest later agreed that the other six plaintiffs were entitled to have their claims considered separately because they had filed their own lawsuits.  But she said those claims must also fail because there was no proof that the defendants engaged in anticompetitive conduct outside the aluminum warehouse services market.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy

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