August 15, 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.

South Korea says investigating whether Google broke antitrust laws.  South Korea’s antitrust regulator said on Friday it is looking into whether Google has violated the country’s anticompetition laws, acknowledging formal scrutiny of the global internet search company for the first time.  The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) disclosed the investigation in a brief statement, without commenting on the nature of the probe nor any potential antitrust violations.  A person familiar with the matter told Reuters last month the KFTC inspected Google’s Seoul headquarters in July.

Google Fined for Breaking Russian Antitrust Rules With Android.  Russian antitrust officials fined Google $6.8 million on Thursday, a relatively small penalty that nevertheless represents the latest in a growing list of global regulatory problems for the American search giant.  Russian authorities ruled last year that Google had abused its market position with Android, its mobile operating system, by favoring some of its digital services over those of rivals, including the Russian company Yandex.  As part of its ruling, the Federation Antimonopoly Service said that Google’s rivals had not been able to include their own offerings, like digital maps or search, in the Android operating system that powers a majority of smartphones and other mobile devices in Russia.

Aluminum price-fixing claims rejected by U.S. appeals court.  A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of nationwide antitrust litigation accusing banks and commodity companies of conspiring to drive up aluminum prices by reducing supply, forcing them to overpay.  By a 3-0 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan said so-called commercial end users and consumer end users lacked standing to sue because their alleged antitrust injuries were too far removed from the alleged misconduct.  The plaintiffs had accused Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the mining company Glencore Plc , and various commodity trading, metals mining and metals warehousing companies of having colluded from 2009 to 2012 to rig prices by hoarding inventory.

Judge sets Aetna-Humana antitrust trial date for Dec. 5.  The federal judge hearing the U.S. Justice Department’s case to block Aetna Inc’s $34 billion purchase of Humana Inc has set a trial date for Dec. 5, 2016, later than the companies had requested.  Aetna and Humana are fighting the Department of Justice’s lawsuit asserting that combining the two companies will harm consumers and raise prices.

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Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    August 8, 2016

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Amazon Japan raided on suspicion of antitrust practices: Nikkei. Japan’s Fair Trade Commission has raided the office of Amazon Japan on suspicion of pressuring retailers to offer products on more favorable conditions than on rival sites, the Nikkei business daily reported on Monday. The paper did not say when the raid took place. Amazon Japan is suspected of imposing conditions on retailers such as forcing them to sell products at a lower price if they were also advertising on other online shopping sites, the Nikkei said, citing sources with knowledge of the case.

    U.S. Challenge to Anthem-Cigna Deal Gets New Judge. The judge overseeing the U.S. government’s bid to stop health insurer Anthem Inc from buying Cigna Corp, who had been seen as favorable for the deal, has relinquished the case. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was named to hear the case after Judge John Bates asked that it be reassigned. Judge Jackson was nominated to the bench in 2011 by President Barack Obama, a Democrat. Judge Bates will hear the U.S. Justice Department’s challenge to Aetna Inc’s purchase of Humana Inc. He was originally assigned to both cases The judge had ruled against antitrust enforcers in 2004 when he allowed Arch Coal Inc to buy Triton Coal.

    Sony Wins Unconditional EU Approval for Michael Jackson Deal. EU antitrust regulators have cleared Sony Corp’s bid to buy out Michael Jackson’s stake in its music publishing joint venture, the world’s largest with copyrights to the Beatles’ songs and songs by Taylor Swift. The European Commission said deal would not hurt competition in the recorded music and music publishing industries. “The transaction will not materially increase Sony’s market power vis-a-vis digital music providers compared to the situation prior to the merger,” the EU competition enforcer said in a statement.

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    Categories: Antitrust Litigation

      August 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.

      Uber Can’t Force Arbitration Over Pricing Antitrust Claim.  Uber Technologies Inc. can’t require a Connecticut customer accusing the company of price-fixing to resolve the fight in arbitration, a federal judge ruled in one of several cases challenging the ride-hailing company’s efforts to steer disputes of all kinds away from public courtrooms.  U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said Friday that Uber’s online user agreement did not provide Spencer Meyer with sufficient notice of its arbitration policy for it to be binding.  The court denied Uber’s request to throw out the antitrust lawsuit over the company’s practice of raising prices during periods of high demand and have the matter sent to an arbitrator.  Constantine Cannon is one of the law firms representing the plaintiff against Uber.

      Teva, Allergan Win U.S. Antitrust Approval for Generics Deal.  Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. won U.S. antitrust approval to purchase Allergan Plc’s generics business after agreeing to divest 79 generic drugs to rival firms, the Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday.  The $40.5 billion deal, which was announced in July 2015, solidifies Teva’s position as the world’s No. 1 maker of generics while freeing Allergan to focus on branded drugs.  Teva will sell rights and assets related to the 79 pharmaceutical products to 11 rival firms, marking the largest ever drug divestiture order in an FTC pharmaceutical merger case, the FTC stated.

      Dow, DuPont Seek EU Okay for $130 Billion Deal with Concessions.  U.S. chemical giants Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont have offered concessions in a bid to allay EU antitrust concerns about their proposed $130 billion (£99.1 billion) merger.  The companies put in their offer on July 20, according to a filing on the European Commission website, which did not provide details.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        July 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.

        Google Faces New Round of Antitrust Charges in Europe.  When it comes to Europe’s lengthy investigations into Google, Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition chief, is hoping that the third time’s a charm.  Ms. Vestager announced on Thursday a new round of antitrust charges against the company — the third set since early 2015 — claiming that some of the company’s advertising products had restricted consumer choice.  The efforts are part of her continuing push to rein in Google’s activities in the European Union, where the Silicon Valley company has captured roughly 90 percent of the region’s online search market.

        Antitrust ruling on big mergers expected soon.  A U.S. Justice Department decision on the proposed mergers of Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc., and Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp., could come as soon as this week.  Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna met earlier this month with Justice Department officials to make its case for its $37 billion merger with Louisville, Kentucky-based rival Humana, just two weeks after a similar meeting involving the $54 billion merger of Indianapolis-based Anthem and Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna, Bloomberg reported.

        Teva says Allergan deal to close ‘any time’, expects U.S. antitrust clearance.  Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd said on Wednesday it expected its $40 billion deal to buy Allergan Plc’s generics business to close “at any time,” even as the companies extended the deadline for completing the transaction to October to allow more time for the U.S. antitrust review.  The deal was announced more than a year ago and had been expected to wrap up last month, but it has taken longer as the companies have arranged sales of more drugs than anticipated to clear the antitrust regulators.  The deal closing is contingent on clearance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the antitrust regulator reviewing the deal, which the companies said they expect at any time.

        Bayer Raises Takeover Bid for Monsanto.  The German industrial giant Bayer raised its all-cash takeover bid for Monsanto on Thursday, turning up the heat in its pursuit of the American agricultural company.  In a news release, Bayer said that it had increased its offer to $125 a share from $122 a share.  The German company also proposed a $1.5 billion breakup fee if a merger of the two companies ran afoul of government regulators — a concession to concerns that a transaction could raise opposition from antitrust officials.  Though the two companies operate on separate sides of the agricultural business, regulators may closely scrutinize a merger that could put additional pricing pressure on farmers.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          July 18, 2016

          Health Plan Members Convince Ninth Circuit to Revive Antitrust Class Action Against Dominant Northern California Healthcare Provider Sutter Health

          By Rosa M. Morales

          An antitrust class action challenging the dominance of healthcare provider Sutter Health in Northern California received a new lease on life Friday as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs’ geographic market allegations were sufficiently detailed and plausible to survive a motion to dismiss.

          In Djeneba Sidibe, et al. v. Sutter Health, No. 14-16234 (9th Cir. July 15, 2016), a three-judge panel unanimously reversed and remanded the district court’s dismissal of the third amended complaint.  Acting on behalf of an alleged class of health plan members, the plaintiffs charge that Sutter Health violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and California’s Cartwright Act.

          Matthew L. Cantor of Constantine Cannon argued on behalf of the putative class that the district court erred by requiring plaintiffs to allege “evidentiary facts” to support the “plausibility” of plaintiffs’ geographic market definition at the pleadings stage.  The Ninth Circuit agreed, holding that plaintiffs had indeed pleaded sufficient allegations to render their markets plausible.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation

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