November 28, 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 Picks Regulation Opponents to Lead FCC Transition.  President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of experts to focus on new policies at the Federal Communications Commission signals a regime that will have a “lighter” touch on regulation and be more likely to favor large mergers in telecoms industries, analysts said.  Economist Jeff Eisenach and former Sprint Corp lobbyist Mark Jamison were named by Trump’s transition team to oversee hiring and policy for the FCC.  They both oppose some recent telecom industry regulations resisted by telecom and cable heavyweights, such as Comcast Corp and AT&T Inc, and have voiced support for mega mergers in the past.

Exclusive: Microsoft Set to Win EU Approval for LinkedIn Buy – Sources.  Microsoft is set to gain EU approval for its $26 billion buy of professional social network LinkedIn with tweaks to concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns, three people close to the matter said on Wednesday.  Microsoft told the European Commission that it would still allow LinkedIn’s rivals access to its software such as its Outlook program and give hardware makers the option of installing competing professional social networks on computers after the acquisition.

U.S. Court Upholds AstraZeneca, Ranbaxy Win in Nexium Antitrust Trial.  A U.S. appeals court upheld AstraZeneca Plc and Ranbaxy Laboratories’ victory in a lawsuit accusing them of reaching an illegal deal to delay the launch of a generic version of AstraZeneca’s heartburn drug Nexium.  A panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston refused to throw out a December 2014 jury verdict in favor of AstraZeneca and Ranbaxy, which was acquired in March 2015 by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Anthem Argues Fortune 500 Will Not Suffer from Cigna Deal.  Anthem Inc. and the U.S. Justice Department dug in their heels in court over whether the lower prices the health insurer expects to negotiate after buying smaller rival Cigna Corp are an efficiency that benefits customers or an antitrust violation.  In the first phase of what could be a two-stage trial, a lawyer for Anthem argued that the $45-billion deal, which was announced more than a year ago, would create a new, bigger insurer with the power to push down prices that it would pass onto customers.  But the Justice Department argued that any cost cuts would come from Anthem using its clout in the market to force hospitals and doctors to work for less.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

    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 14, 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’s Policies May Bring Fresh Wave of Deals.  With a man who is co-author of “The Art of the Deal” as president-elect, deal making can be expected to increase.  This rise will be determined by whether a Trump administration can govern with stability.  And then there is the biggest factor these days in deals — antitrust.  It all means that the long-term forces now pushing companies toward making deals are likely to continue, but with some big caveats, namely whether Mr. Trump can govern from a position of stability and consistency.

        Google Lawyer Says Android Helps Rather Than Harms Competition.  Google’s Android mobile operating system boosts competition rather than hurts it, the company’s general counsel said on Thursday, in a rebuttal of EU antitrust charges that it uses the platform to crush rivals.  The comments by Google general counsel Kent Walker on a blog came a week after the U.S. technology group rejected two other EU accusations of unfairly promoting its shopping service and blocking competitors in online search advertising.  The Android case could potentially be the most damaging for Google.

        U.S. Senate Panel Urges FTC to Launch Antitrust Probe of Mylan.  The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee urged federal antitrust regulators on Monday to launch a probe into whether EpiPen maker Mylan broke the law by preventing schools from purchasing competing allergy treatments.  The bipartisan request to the Federal Trade Commission by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy comes just a few weeks before the committee is slated to convene a hearing to scrutinize a pending $465 million settlement that Mylan has said will resolve claims it underpaid rebates to state and federal Medicaid programs.

        U.S. Urges Court to Overturn AmEx Antitrust Decision.  The U.S. government on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a recent antitrust decision allowing American Express to stop merchants from encouraging customers to use rival cards that charge lower fees.  In its Sept. 26 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a lower court ruling that had struck down AmEx’s “anti-steering” rules.  At issue are the more than $50 billion of fees that merchants pay annually to process transactions.

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        Categories: Antitrust Legislation, Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, 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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