November 30, 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.

U.S. probing Comcast’s role in ‘spot’ cable ad sales market.  The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Comcast Corp, the biggest U.S. cable TV provider, is blocking competition in cable advertising sales, according to a source.  The DOJ’s Antitrust Division reportedly has sent civil investigative demands to video distribution companies in an effort to discover whether Comcast was seeking to dominate the “spot” cable ad sales business in areas where Comcast offers service.  The spot cable advertising market has been estimated to be worth $5.4 billion nationally.

Microsoft settles suit tied to compliance with EU antitrust case.  Microsoft has settled a lawsuit stemming from a costly violation of its agreement with European Union antitrust regulators to offer consumers the option of using other companies’ Web browsers.  A federal judge in Seattle this given preliminary approval to a settlement between Microsoft shareholders and the company that will create an office responsible for monitoring the company’s compliance with antitrust regulations.  Microsoft will establish an Antitrust Compliance Office to oversee compliance with any EU or U.S. antitrust matters, and dedicate up to $42.5 million over a five-year period to funding the effort.

Ball offers to sell 11 plants in bid for EU Okay for Rexam Buy-Sources.  U.S. drinks can maker Ball Corp is ready to sell 11 plants in Europe in a bid to convince European Union antitrust regulators to approve its 4.43 billion pound offer for British peer Rexam, according to sources.  The world’s two largest beverage can makers reportedly want to merge to better manage capital spending and cut costs.  However, the European Commission fears the deal would push up prices for companies and consumers.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    November 23, 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.

    Consumers lose U.S. appeal over credit card arbitration clauses.  The credit card industry won a big legal victory as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit  rejected claims by a group of consumers that big issuers colluded to require that disputes be settled in arbitration rather than through class action lawsuits.  The appellate court upheld the district court’s ruling that American Express, Citigroup and Discover Financial Services did not violate antitrust law in forcing cardholders to submit to arbitration.  Consumers argued that card-issuing banks and their lawyers broke the law when they held 28 meetings from May 1999 to October 2003 to discuss how to impose mandatory arbitration clauses in cardholder agreements.

    Google to contest Russia’s antitrust ruling on Android.  Google has announced that it will contest in court a ruling by Russia’s antitrust agency that it broke competition law by abusing its dominant position with its Android mobile platform.  Russia’s competition watchdog ruled in September that Google had broken the law by requiring pre-installation of certain applications on mobile devices running on Android.

    States Urged to Review Health Insurer Mergers.  Consumer advocates and antitrust experts are urging state regulators to closely examine the proposed mergers of major health insurance companies, saying they threaten to leave consumers with fewer choices and higher prices.  Some consumer groups are concerned about merger proposals involving the nation’s largest health insurers that would result in three behemoths: Anthem with Cigna, Aetna with Humana and the unpartnered UnitedHealth Group.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

      November 16, 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.

      Consumer coalition forms to fight health insurance mergers.  Two U.S. consumer groups have formed a coalition with New York labor unions to press antitrust regulators to oppose big insurance mergers that would cut the number of nationwide for-profit health insurers from five to three.  The Coalition to Preserve Patient Choice, made up of the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action and others, was formed because of concern about Anthem Inc’s purchase of Cigna Corp for $47 billion and Aetna Inc’s decision to buy Humana Inc for $37 billion, according to the coalition.

      US Sues Over Proposed Deal Between United, Delta at Newark.  The federal government wants to block a deal that would strengthen United Airlines’ control over Newark Liberty International Airport, saying that it would drive up fares that are already high.  The U.S. Department of Justice Department is suing to block a deal that would let United acquire 24 takeoff and landing slots at Newark from Delta Air Lines.  According to federal officials, United already controls 73 percent of the slots at the airport, which serves 35 million passengers a year.

      Barclays to pay $120 million in U.S. Libor litigation: lawyers.  Barclays has agreed to pay $120 million to settle private U.S. litigation accusing it of conspiring with rivals to rig the benchmark interest rate known as Libor, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.  The British bank is the first to resolve claims by so-called “over-the-counter” investors that transacted directly with banks comprising a panel to determine Libor, or the London Interbank Offered Rate.  Libor is used to set rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars of transactions, including for credit cards, student loans and mortgages.

      Staples, Office Depot in talks to transfer corporate contracts: WSJ.  Staples and Office Depot, which are seeking to merge, are in talks with wholesaler Essendant to transfer about $600 million of corporate contracts to satisfy U.S antitrust concerns, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The terms of the divestiture proposal could change during talks with Federal Trade Commission officials, the Journal said, citing sources.  However, it is uncertain whether the concessions will satisfy the FTC.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

        November 9, 2015

        The Antitrust Week In Review

        Google says an EU antitrust fine would be ‘inappropriate.’  Google is hitting back at European Union antitrust regulators’ threats of a hefty fine, saying this would be inappropriate because of the unusual nature of the case and its willingness to settle the case with concessions last year.  In its reply to the European Commission’s charge sheet, the world’s most popular search engine also criticized regulators for not taking into account the fact that it was offering a free search service.  The company’s robust defense came after the Commission capped a five-year investigation with accusations that Google distorted search results to favor its shopping service, harming both rivals and users.

        Ex-Player’s Suit Challenges N.C.A.A.’s Transfer Rules.  A former college football player has filed suit against the N.C.A.A., charging that the association’s transfer rules and limits on scholarships violate United States antitrust laws. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Indianapolis on Thursday on behalf of the former Weber State cornerback Devin Pugh, seeks to allow players to transfer freely between colleges and to abolish the cap on football scholarships — currently 85.  N.C.A.A. rules require basketball and football players in its top tier of competition to sit out a season if they change universities, unless they are granted a waiver by the N.C.A.A.

        EU antitrust regulators charge 10 Asian capacitor makers over cartel.  EU antitrust regulators are charging that 10 Asian makers of electrolytic capacitors illegally fixed prices through a cartel over a 17-year period.  The European Commission said the cartel operated from 1997 to 2014, with the companies holding a series of multilateral meetings in Japan to discuss future market trends, prices and customer data.  Electrolytic capacitors control the flow of electricity in a variety of products including smartphones, TVs, games consoles and cameras.

        EU regulators want to boost national antitrust powers, seek feedback.  EU antitrust regulators are seeking public feedback over how to strengthen national competition authorities in the 28-country bloc, some of whom are currently limited in their access to cloud-based information or in the amount of penalties they can impose.  European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that while some agencies enjoyed the same powers as the European Commission, some lacked essential tools to deter anticompetitive practices.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          November 2, 2015

          The Antitrust Week In Review

          Apple Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Toss e-Books Antitrust Decision.  Apple is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that found the iPad maker conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices.  Apple is seeking review of the June ruling that favored the U.S. Department of Justice and found the company liable for engaging in a conspiracy that violated federal antitrust laws.  Apple is claiming that the appellate decision contradicts Supreme Court precedent and would “chill innovation and risktaking.”

          Walgreens to Buy Rite Aid for $9.4 Billion.  As companies throughout the health care industry accelerate the pace of consolidation, two of the country’s biggest drugstore chains have agreed to combine to create a new giant.  Walgreens Boots Alliance is seeking to buy Rite Aid for more than $9.4 billion, which would significantly bolster its influence with drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers.  But the combination may draw a skeptical eye from antitrust enforcers concerned about a few big chains gaining effective control of the retail pharmacy market.

          U.S. Justice Dept. Rejects Electrolux Proposal on GE Appliance Business.  The U.S. Justice Department has rejected an Electrolux offer to settle a fight over whether the Swedish company would be allowed to buy General Electric’s appliance business, saying it was inadequate.  According to the Justice Department, “the proposal was well short of replacing competition” that would have been lost because of the deal.  The government’s rejection of the deal was revealed on Friday at a hearing preceding a mini-trial set to begin in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Nov. 9 to determine if the $3.3 billion deal can go forward.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

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