June 20, 2016

The Antitrust Week In Review

Advocate-NorthShore Merger Delayed Again.  Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University HealthSystem face another delay over a merger they announced almost two years ago.  U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso on Friday granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request to halt the proposed merger pending its appeal of the judge’s decision earlier this week that cleared the way for the deal to close.  On Tuesday, Judge Alonso, after a six-day hearing in April, said the FTC had not met its burden for a preliminary injunction. But he turned around Friday and granted an injunction after the commission said it would appeal his Tuesday ruling to a higher court.

Justice Department Should Analyze Dow-DuPont Deal: Senator.  The chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday urged federal antitrust officials to conduct a “careful analysis” of Dow Chemical Co’s proposed $130 billion merger with DuPont, adding pressure on officials to scrutinize how rapid consolidation in agriculture will affect farmers and consumers.  U.S. Senator Charles Grassley called for the review in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division.  The Iowa Republican said he was concerned the planned tie-up will decrease competition in the farming sector following a flood of mergers and acquisitions in recent years.

Antitrust Cops Warn Merging Firms: Be Real.  The U.S. Department of Justice is sending a warning signal to health insurers, chemical companies and others seeking antitrust approval for big deals: Leave the dubious charts at home.  Antitrust lawyers for companies seeking approval for big mergers have for years bolstered their case by providing extensive economic analyses, often market by market, to show that the tie-ups wouldn’t stifle competition.  Justice Department officials are now saying they’re not going to be swayed in their analysis by impenetrable economic models.

HSBC to Pay $35 Million to Resolve Yen Libor Litigation in U.S.  HSBC Holdings Plc will pay $35 million to end private U.S. antitrust litigation claiming that it harmed investors by conspiring with other banks to manipulate the yen Libor and Euroyen Tibor benchmark interest rates.  Papers outlining the preliminary settlement were filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.  Court approval is required.  The accord came four and one-half months after Citigroup Inc. reached a similar $23 million settlement, in what lawyers for the plaintiff investors called an “ice breaker” that might spur some of the roughly 20 other bank defendants to settle.

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

    June 6, 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.

    NRF Urges FTC to Probe Credit Card Body on Antitrust Concerns.  The National Retail Federation is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate an organization founded by credit card companies to set data security standards, saying the group’s practices raise antitrust concerns.  The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council “fails to meet any of the principles adopted by the federal government for voluntary standard-setting organizations,” NRF General Counsel Mallory Duncan wrote to the FTC.  The NRF claims that the card companies use their market power to “unfairly leverage their brands and proprietary technology through webs of closely controlled interdependent bodies and compliance regimes” including the council.

    Merger Crackdown Part of ‘Mixed’ Obama Antitrust Record.  Although U.S. antitrust enforcement has picked up under President Barack Obama, his overall record on the issue still falls short of what some were expecting based on his campaign promises and sharp criticism of the George W. Bush administration.  The U.S. Department of Justice challenged an average of about 17 mergers annually during the first six years of the Obama presidency, an increase of about 18 percent over Bush administration levels, according to a Bloomberg BNA analysis of DOJ data.  But some competition advocates believe President Obama’s antitrust record is mixed, and not too far from his predecessor’s in some ways.

    EU Regulators to Rule on Mylan’s $7.2 Billion Meda Bid by July 6.  European Union antitrust regulators will rule by July 6 whether to allow U.S. generic drugmaker Mylan NV to buy Swedish peer Meda or open a full-scale investigation.  Mylan, which is making its third takeover attempt, sought EU approval on June 1, according to a filing on the European Commission website on Thursday.  If the Commission expresses competition concerns, the company has the option of offering concessions.

    AB InBev-SABMiller Deal Set to Gain U.S. Approval – Bloomberg.  The U.S. Justice Department is set to approve Anheuser-Busch InBev SA’s takeover of SABMiller Plc later this month, in an agreement that may include measures to keep the merged entity from edging craft brewers out of the market, Bloomberg has reported, citing sources.  Clearance for the $100 billion-plus acquisition could include limits on the combined company’s ownership of distributors.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

      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

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