February 8, 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.

EU antitrust chief considers lower fines for cooperating companies.  European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager  is suggesting that companies that admit to breaking the law should be rewarded with lower fines to help speed up antitrust investigations.  The European Commission typically takes several years to wrap up cases, which critics say is not helpful for consumers or competitors.  According to the EU’s top antitrust regulator, the EU “should reward companies that admit to having broken the law, especially when they come up with remedies to make the markets more competitive, or companies that provide evidence voluntarily.”

Citigroup reaches $23 mln ‘ice breaker’ yen Libor settlement.  Citigroup will pay $23 million to end private U.S. antitrust litigation claiming that it conspired to manipulate the yen Libor and Euroyen Tibor benchmark interest rates.  Lawyers for the plaintiff investors are calling the agreement an “ice breaker” that could spur some of the roughly 20 other bank defendants to settle.  Court approval of the settlement agreement is required.  RP Martin, a brokerage whose main assets are now part of BGC Partners Inc, also settled, without making a payment.

Judge Deals Blow to New Rodeo Circuit, but Lets Antitrust Suit Continue.  Judge Barbara Lynn of U.S. District Court in Dallas has ruled that new bylaws meant to protect the long-established Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association from competing rodeo circuits are enforceable, a blow to a group of top rodeo athletes planning a satellite circuit this year.  But the court also denied the association’s motion to dismiss a broader antitrust lawsuit filed by Elite Rodeo Athletes, whose nine-city tour is scheduled to stretch from March to November.  The suit came after the P.R.C.A. rewrote bylaws, including one that said that anyone with a financial interest in a competing circuit would not be eligible to compete in any of the hundreds of P.R.C.A.-sanctioned rodeos held each year.

German competition watchdog wants ‘big data’ hoards considered in merger probes: paper.  The vast troves of consumer data held by big Internet companies should be scrutinized in merger probes because they have a big impact on competition, according to the president of the German antitrust watchdog.  “Until now, markets in which no money flows and in which no revenues are posted do not count as markets from a competition point of view. But that obviously goes against the logic of many Internet markets,” Andreas Mundt told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

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

    January 25, 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.

    Cable Acquisitions by Charter Communications Face Rising Opposition.  Comcast’s failed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable collapsed last year under pressure from regulators, who found that the combined company would have had both the power and incentive to inhibit the future of streaming video.  Now, as rival Charter Communications seeks approval for its $67.1 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, critics point to the same potential for harm.  “If Comcast’s deal for Time Warner Cable was a Category 5 hurricane, Charter-Time Warner is a Category 4,” according to Jeff Blum, deputy general counsel of Dish Network, the satellite television provider.

    European Antitrust Chief Takes Swipe at Privacy Issue.  Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, is warning that the collection of a vast amount of users’ data by a small number of tech companies like Google and Facebook could be in violation of the EU’s tough competition rules.  Ms. Vestager’s comments are the latest in a growing chorus of European criticism about the privacy practices of American tech giants, many of which rely on crunching data based on people’s social media posts, online search queries and e-commerce purchases to fuel their digital advertising businesses.  “If a few companies control the data you need to cut costs, then you give them the power to drive others out of the market,” Ms. Vestager said at a conference of digital executives and policy makers.

    Hollywood studios, Sky spar with EU antitrust regulator.  NBCUniversal, Disney and four other U.S. studios together with Sky UK are pushing back against European Union charges of anticompetitive movie-licensing deals ahead of a decision later this year.  The companies’ defense comes six months after the European Commission accused them of preventing consumers outside Britain and Ireland from accessing films and other content broadcast by the British pay-TV group.  The accusations by the EU antitrust enforcer came amid a campaign to end restrictions hindering cross-border trade, aimed at boosting e-commerce and growth in the 28-country bloc.

    U.S. FTC probes Turing over drug prices, Shkreli’s lawyer says.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating Turing Pharmaceuticals for possible antitrust violations in connection with the company’s decision to hike the price of a life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent, according to a lawyer for former Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli.  The investigation was disclosed in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from Baruch Weiss, Shkreli’s lawyer, as grounds for why his client would not answer questions about drug prices at a Jan. 26 hearing.  The committee had subpoenaed Shkreli, who has been indicted separately on securities fraud charges, to appear to discuss why, as Turing’s CEO, he decided to raise the price of Daraprim to $750 a tablet from $13.50.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

      August 17, 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.

      FTC offers first-ever guidance on ‘unfair competition.’  The Federal Trade Commission has released unprecedented guidance on what constitutes “unfair competition,” but has stopped short of offering the level of detail long sought by businesses.  The guidance is actually the first attempt by the FTC to precisely define “unfair competition,” which is barred by Section 5 of 1914 Federal Trade Commission Act.  Stressing that its enforcement practices would not change, the FTC said it would be guided by consumer welfare concerns in applying the law.

      Europe Gives Google More Time to Respond to Antitrust Charges.  The European Commission is giving Google until the end of August to answer claims that it favored its own comparison shopping search over those of rivals.  The move came just days before an August 17 deadline that Europe’s competition authorities had set for Google to respond to the charges.

      TrueCar says it considers U.S. antitrust probe to be closed.  The Federal Trade Commission has closed an investigation into whether auto dealers ganged up against shopping website TrueCar in order to raise prices, TrueCar said in a securities filing on Wednesday.  TrueCar said in the filing it had responded to an FTC request for documents and considered the matter to be closed.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

        July 13, 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.

        MasterCard Faces Antitrust Charges in E.U.  European antitrust officials have filed formal charges against MasterCard, accusing the company of harming consumers and retailers by setting artificially high fees for credit card transactions in Europe.  The European Commission said MasterCard had prevented some retailers from processing transactions in countries with lower fees. The commission also said that MasterCard’s fees were unfair to tourists traveling in Europe.

        FTC exploring Apple rules for streaming music rivals in App Store.  U.S. government antitrust regulators are investigating claims that Apple’s treatment of rival streaming music apps is illegal under antitrust law, according to industry sources.  Apple recently launched a new music streaming service, Apple Music.  It also provides the App Store platform for competing streaming services including Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others.

        States line up to scrutinize Aetna’s $33 Billion Humana deal.  U.S. insurance regulators and state attorneys general are lining up to examine Aetna Inc’s proposed $33 billion takeover of rival Humana Inc. for potential harm to consumers, complicating what was already expected to be a tough review by federal antitrust authorities.  Insurance commissioners in 18 states including Texas, Kentucky and Florida will study merger documents provided by Humana to determine whether the deal will harm competition and lead to higher insurance premiums or diminished access to healthcare providers.  Moreover, while the U.S. Department of Justice is taking the lead on scrutinizing the transaction, at least three state attorneys general – in Florida, Mississippi and Massachusetts – have stated they will look at the proposed acquisition as well.

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        Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

          June 30, 2015

          Sysco Scraps US Foods Merger After FTC Victory In Court

          By Allison F. Sheedy

          Sysco Corp. announced yesterday that it is abandoning its plans to acquire food service rival US Foods Inc., following last week’s setback to the deal in federal court.

          In an opinion that closely tracked the FTC/DOJ Merger Guidelines, Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Federal Trade Commission a preliminary injunction to halt the proposed merger of nation’s two largest distributors of food and related supplies to restaurants and other foodservice establishments.  Sysco’s announcement that it was abandoning its plans to acquire its rival is no surprise, given the substantial hurdle imposed on the deal by the FTC’s victory in court.

          The 18-month-old proposed deal encountered regulatory scrutiny from the start.  Last February, Sysco and US Foods proposed a divestiture of 11 US Foods distribution facilities to a smaller competing foodservice company, Performance Food Group (“PFG”), as a “fix-it-first” remedy designed to allay the FTC’s concerns.  The FTC was not swayed, however, and decided to sue Sysco and Us Foods to block the deal.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy

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