September 26, 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.

China Vitamin C Price-Fixing Verdict Voided by U.S. Appeals Court.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Tuesday threw out a $147.8 million price-fixing verdict against two Chinese companies that were accused of conspiring to raise prices and lower supply of vitamin C sold to U.S. purchasers.  The Court of Appeals said the case should not have gone to trial after China, in a “historic act,” formally advised that its laws required the vitamin C makers to violate the Sherman Act, a U.S. antitrust law.  Writing for a 3-0 panel, Circuit Judge Peter Hall said the Brooklyn judge who presided over the March 2013 jury verdict should have deferred to China’s interpretation of its own laws, regardless of the country’s motives.

35 US States Sue British Drugmaker Over Marketing of Opioid.  Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday alleging that British drugmaker Indivior tried to keep cheaper, generic versions of Suboxone off the market, California’s attorney general announced.  The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania also names New Jersey’s MonoSol Rx, a pharmaceutical dissolving-film company, for conspiring to corner the market on the popular medication used to treat people hooked on heroin and other painkillers.

Exclusive: Japan’s Antitrust Watchdog Considers Action Against Apple, Carriers – Sources.  Japanese regulators are considering taking action against Apple Inc. over possible antitrust violations that may have helped it dominate the nation’s smartphone sales, government sources said, a move that could hit the company’s profit margins in one of its most profitable markets.  In a report published last month, Japan’s Fair Trade Commission said that NTT Docomo, KDDI Corp and Softbank Group were refusing to sell older surplus iPhone models to third party retailers, thereby hobbling smaller competitors.  Apple was not named in that report, but two senior government sources told Reuters that regulators were also focusing on Apple’s supply agreements with all three carriers.

Google Gets More Time to Counter EU Antitrust Charge on Android.  Alphabet’s Google has been given an extra three weeks to respond to EU antitrust charges that it abused its dominant Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals, the European Commission said on Tuesday.  The U.S. tech giant had been due to file a response by Tuesday, but said it needed more time and will now reply by Oct. 7, a Commission spokesman said, the third extension of the deadline.  The Commission in April accused Google of harming consumers because it required mobile phone makers to pre-install Google Search and the Google Chrome browser on their smartphones to access other Google apps.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    September 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.

    EU says widespread use of geoblocking may breach antitrust rules.  European Union antitrust regulators said on Thursday they may take action against online and electronic retailers restricting cross-border sales within the bloc but only on a case-by-case basis.  Following a year-long investigation into the sector, the European Commission preliminary report showed that geoblocking, where retailers prevent online shoppers in some countries buying cheaper products or services abroad, is widespread, due in part to agreements between retailers and content providers.  The so-called e-commerce sector inquiry is part of the European Commission’s campaign to overhaul the 28-country bloc’s digital market in a bid to boost growth and catch up with the United States and Asia.

    Judge Rejects Justice Department Ruling on Music Licensing.  A federal judge on Friday rejected a recent Justice Department ruling on music licensing, in a move that was immediately hailed by the music industry as a major victory.  In his decision, Judge Louis L. Stanton of the United States District Court in Manhattan said the Justice Department erred last month when it issued a detailed interpretation of a regulatory document known as a consent decree. The document has long governed Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), a licensing agency that collects money whenever songs are publicly performed, including on the radio, on streaming services and in public places like restaurants and retail stores.

    Bayer’s Monsanto acquisition to face politically charged scrutiny.  As the global agricultural sector races to consolidate, Bayer AG’s $66 billion all-cash deal to acquire Monsanto Co will test growing political and consumer unease in the United States and abroad over the future of food production.  Bayer’s pesticide-focused agricultural business has few overlaps with Monsanto’s dominant seed franchise, according to the companies’ executives.  Still, marrying two of the world’s top farm suppliers at a time when rivals are also merging is fueling concern over reduced competition in the $100 billion global market.

    Johnson & Johnson to Buy Abbott’s Vision Unit for $4.33B.  Johnson & Johnson said Friday that it is paying more than $4.3 billion in cash to buy the eye health unit of Abbott Laboratories as it seeks to boost its vision business.  The unit, called Abbott Medical Optics, makes lasers and other equipment used for cataract surgeries and laser vision correction procedures.  It also makes eye drops and cleaners for contact lenses.  The deal is subject to antitrust clearance and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

      September 12, 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.

      New York Attorney General Launches Antitrust Probe of Mylan’s EpiPen Contracts.  New York state’s attorney general on Tuesday opened an investigation into pharmaceuticals giant Mylan, focused on its contracts with local school systems to buy its lifesaving EpiPens.  The skyrocketing price of those auto-injection devices, used to counteract potentially fatal allergic reactions, has drawn intense criticism of the company this summer.  The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said it launched its probe after a preliminary review revealed Mylan might have inserted anti-competitive terms into its deals to sell EpiPens.

      Mastercard Sued for 14 Billion Pounds in Britain’s Biggest Damages Claim.  About 46 million people in Britain could potentially benefit from a legal case brought against Mastercard demanding 14 billion pounds ($19 billion) in damages for allegedly charging excessive fees, according to court documents filed in London.  The case brought by a former chief financial services ombudsman alleges the payments company set unlawfully high fees charged to stores when shoppers swipe their debit or credit cards that were passed on to consumers in higher prices.  Mastercard was accused of doing this for 16 years between 1992 and 2008, according to the documents filed at the Competition Appeal Tribunal on Thursday.

      Google Given More Time to Reply to EU Antitrust Charge on Android.  Alphabet’s Google has been given two more weeks to counter EU antitrust charges that it uses its dominant Android mobile operating system to block competitors, the European Commission said on Thursday.  The EU competition enforcer in April accused the U.S. technology giant of harming consumers because of its demand that mobile phone makers pre-install Google Search and the Google Chrome browser on their smartphones to access other Google apps.  Google was initially given until July 27 to respond to the charges but asked for an extension to Sept. 7.

      As US Puts Breaks on Megadeals, Walgreens Prepares to Unload.  Walgreens believes that it will probably have to unload more stores than expected to ease antitrust concerns over its pending, $9.41 billion acquisition of Rite Aid, a deal that would make the nation’s largest drugstore chain even larger.  While it still expects to complete the acquisition this year, the Deerfield, Illinois, company said Thursday that it will probably have to divest more than 500 stores.  The company previously said that it expected to divest 500 or fewer.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        September 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.

        U.S. sues to stop Deere from buying Precision Planting.  The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Wednesday aimed at stopping Deere & Co from buying Monsanto Co’s Precision Planting farm equipment business.  The Justice Department said the proposed deal would mean higher prices for farmers who want to buy equipment for high-speed precision planting, which allows farmers to plant row crops like corn up to twice as fast as with conventional machinery.   Deere said in a statement that it would fight the lawsuit, saying that the Justice Department’s antitrust concerns were “misguided.”

        China Opens Antitrust Investigation Into Uber’s Deal With Didi.  The authorities in China are investigating Uber’s planned sale of its Chinese operations to a local rival, complicating a deal intended to bring the American ride-share operator’s costly venture there to an end.  At a daily news briefing on Friday, Shen Danyang, a spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry, said the inquiry was prompted by local concerns about Uber’s plan to sell the business to Didi Chuxing, of China.  The deal, announced last month, would create a company worth about $35 billion that would hold a strong position in the Chinese market for hailing cars via smartphone apps.

        Nexstar wins U.S. antitrust approval to merge with Media General.  Nexstar Broadcast Group has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy Media General Corp on condition that it sell seven television stations, the Justice Department said on Friday.  The $4.6 billion dollar deal had been announced in January.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          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

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