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

    December 28, 2015

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

    Staples says U.S. regulators’ complaint against merger is “misguided.”  Staples is accusing federal regulators of applying antitrust laws in a “misguided” way to try to block its $6.3 billion merger with smaller office supply retailer Office Depot.  Staples charged in a court filing that the Federal Trade Commission used “selective documentation” to show that the merger partners were the only companies competing for large, national customers.

    British Authorities Accuse 11th Person of Rigging Benchmark Interest Rate.  British authorities have begun criminal proceedings against a former Société Générale employee in a continuing investigation into the manipulation of a global benchmark interest rate.  Stephane Esper, the former Société Générale employee, is the latest person expected to face criminal charges in an inquiry by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, which investigates financial crime, related to the manipulation of the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor.  The fraud office announced in November that it expected to bring conspiracy to defraud charges against 10 current and former employees of Barclays and Deutsche Bank when they make their first court appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London in January.

    Songkick Sues Live Nation, Saying It Abuses Its Market Power.  In a case that offers a glimpse into the lucrative but often hidden business of concert tickets, a small company has sued Live Nation Entertainment in federal court, accusing the multibillion-dollar concert giant of abusing its market power to control the sales of tickets through musicians’ websites and fan clubs.  Songkick — a concert listings and ticketing company based in New York that has worked with artists like Adele, Paul McCartney, Ellie Goulding, Jackson Browne, Miranda Lambert and Ricky Martin — filed its suit on Tuesday in United States District Court in Los Angeles, accusing Live Nation and its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, of interfering in Songkick’s business in violation of federal antitrust law.

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

      December 21, 2015

      The Antitrust Week In Review

      Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

      American Express can enforce anti-steering rules: court.  American Express can once again enforce its rules prohibiting merchants from steering customers to other credit cards after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit temporarily lifted an earlier court order on Friday.  The Court of Appeals decided to lift the order until it decides the appeal of the April 30 order by Judge Nicholas Garaufis that found that American Express’s rules harmed competition and violated U.S. antitrust laws.  The appellate court’s ruling came the day after it heard oral argument on American Express’ appeal of the order.

      Regulators Tamp Down on Mergers of Hospitals.  In the latest sign that federal antitrust regulators are uneasy about the increase in proposed health care mergers, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it planned to block the combination of two large Illinois hospital groups.  Regulators said the proposed merger of Advocate Health Care, which is already the state’s largest health system, and NorthShore University HealthSystem, could create a 16-hospital powerhouse that would dominate the North Shore area of Chicago.  “This merger is likely to significantly increase the combined system’s bargaining power with health plans, which in turn will harm consumers by bringing about higher prices and lower quality,” said Deborah L. Feinstein, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a statement announcing the decision.

      Sky, U.S. studios to fight antitrust charges at January hearing: sources.   Sky UK, NBCUniversal and five other U.S. studios will try to convince EU antitrust regulators at a hearing next month that their movie-licensing deals are not anti-competitive, according to sources.  The European Commission in July accused the group of blocking consumers outside the UK and Ireland access to films and other content broadcasted by the British TV station.  The EU executive is seeking to end restrictions which hamper cross-border trade in an effort to spur e-commerce and growth in the 28-country bloc.

      States, Feds Involved in Movie Theater Antitrust Inquiries.  The U.S. Justice Department and several states are investigating alleged antitrust violations by the country’s biggest movie theater chains, according to securities filings and the Ohio attorney general.  AMC and Cinemark both acknowledged investigative demands by the government in recent SEC quarterly filings.  Last month, AMC also acknowledged similar requests from Ohio, Florida, Kansas, New York, Texas, Washington and the District of Columbia.  The antitrust enforcers are seeking documents related to potentially anticompetitive conduct, including film clearances and participation in certain joint ventures.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

        December 16, 2015

        Driverless Cars Will Have To Navigate Antitrust Curves

        By Daniel Vitelli

        As noted by Boies Schiller partner Scott Gant in his recent Forbes article, not only is the much-anticipated arrival of driverless cars on the roads raising thorny questions regarding their safety, efficiency and ethical use, but antitrust issues are hitching a ride as well.

        While suppliers and consumers work together to navigate the technological and social roadblocks, potential antitrust enforcement is also on the horizon.  As with any disruptive technology the driverless car industry raises complex competition issues and likely scrutiny from antitrust enforcers.

        The automotive industry is no stranger to antitrust law.  For example, over the last several years, the U.S. Department of Justice has investigated and prosecuted several individuals and companies for antitrust violations in the auto parts industry.  For example, in January 2015 Sanden Corp., a Japanese auto parts manufacturer, “agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $3.2 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition for the purchase of compressors used in air conditioning systems.”  Dept. of Justice, Press Release Jan. 27, 2015. State antitrust actions and private litigation soon followed.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

          December 14, 2015

          The Antitrust Week In Review

          Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

          Dow, DuPont Set $130 Billion Megamerger, Could Spark More Deals.  Chemical giants DuPont and Dow Chemical Co have agreed to combine in an all-stock merger valued at $130 billion in a first step toward breaking up into three separate businesses, a move that pleased activist investors and could trigger more consolidation.  A Wells Fargo analyst dubbed this proposed combination of two of the biggest and oldest U.S. chemical producers the “deal of three centuries.”  However, analysts think the deal is likely to face intense regulatory scrutiny, especially with respect to the combination of the companies’ agricultural businesses, which sell seeds and crop protection chemicals, including insecticides and pesticides.

          Qualcomm is Accused of Violating Antitrust Rules in Europe.  The European Commission has filed antitrust charges against the chip maker Qualcomm, the latest in a growing number of competition investigations targeting American technology companies.  Europe’s antitrust officials accuse Qualcomm, one of the world’s largest makers of chips, of abusing its dominant market position in the region by offering financial incentives to smartphone and tablet manufacturers that agreed to buy equipment solely from Qualcomm.  The company’s chips are widely used in smartphones and other mobile devices.

          Judge Restores U.S. Airways’ Damages Claims in Sabre Antitrust Case.  A federal judge has restored US Airways Inc’s ability to seek about $210 million of damages in its antitrust lawsuit accusing Sabre Corp of inflating booking fees, even after the carrier had waived damages exceeding a mere $20.  Saying the case mattered to consumers hoping to keep down the cost of flying, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan said “the interest of justice would be best served” by letting US Airways, now part of American Airlines Group Inc, seek meaningful, rather than nominal, damages.  US Airways alleges that Sabre charged inflated fees and suppressed competition, impeding travel agents and others from using cheaper alternative means to book seats.

          GE Scraps $3.3 Billion Appliance Unit Sale to Electrolux.  GE has scrapped a $3.3 billion plan to sell its home appliance business to the Swedish company Electrolux, a deal opposed by U.S. regulators over antitrust concerns.  Electrolux is the world’s second-biggest home appliance maker after U.S. rival Whirlpool.  It sells most of its products in the U.S. under the Frigidaire brand.  The U.S. Department of Justice was suing to stop the deal, claiming that it would have eliminated a major competitor and left Electrolux and Whirlpool as the only big companies in the U.S. selling cooking appliances such as ovens and ranges.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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