April 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.

EU Regulators Set to Warn Halliburton on Baker Hughes Deal: Sources.  European Union antitrust regulators are planning to warn U.S. oil industry services group Halliburton Co that its plan to buy Baker Hughes will hurt competition, according to sources.  The move would add to Halliburton’s woes after the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit this month to stop the deal because the combined company would only compete with Schlumberger NV in 20 business lines in the global well drilling and oil industry construction services industry.  Such a warning typically means the EU watchdog is poised to block a merger unless companies provide concessions to address its concerns.

Microsoft and Google Agree to Drop Mutual Complaints.  Microsoft and Google have agreed to withdraw complaints against each other with regulators around the world, as the two American tech giants continued recent efforts to settle the once-bitter conflicts between them.  The two companies also said they would try to resolve future squabbles before complaining to regulators, as they have in the past.

Trading Start-Up Files Antitrust Lawsuit in New York.  Derivatives trading start-up TeraExchange has filed an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging that some of the biggest banks in the world conspired to block customers from using its service.  The suit charges that 12 banks conspired to keep investors from trading interest rates swaps on its platform, which was founded in 2010.  Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, RBS and UBS were named in the suit.

Glaxo, Other Drug Makers Appeal UK Fines for Pay-to-Delay Deals.  GlaxoSmithKline is appealing a $54.5 million fine that was recently levied by UK regulators for illegally conspiring with several generic rivals to delay marketing of a lower-cost version of its Paxil antidepressant.  The generic manufacturers were also fined a total of about $7 million and are appealing those decisions, as well.  The appeals come two months after the UK Competitions and Market Authority found that between 2001 and 2004, Glaxo made payments totaling about $72 million to several generic companies as part of a settlement to end patent litigation that was filed by Glaxo against the generic drug makers.  In its appeal, Glaxo argued that the UK regulators failed to prove the deals restricted competition and that its own tactics did not constitute abuse of a dominant position in the market for antidepressants.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    April 20, 2016

    EU Commission Hits Google With Abuse Of Dominance Charges Over Android

    A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

    By Richard Pike and Yulia Tosheva

    Just as expected, following a one-year investigation and a number of information requests, the European Commission formally announced today that it is accusing Google’s parent company, Alphabet, of abusing its dominant position in relation to the Android mobile operating system.

    Google is already facing antitrust charges from Brussels over promoting its own shopping service in online searches.  The stakes seem higher for Google in the Android case, however, as it made about $11 billion last year from advertising sales on Android phones through its apps such as Maps, Search and Gmail, according to estimates by financial analyst Richard Windsor.[1]  About 80% of smartphones and tablets globally run on Android.[2]

    Google

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

      April 4, 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.

      FTC Accuses Endo, Other Drugmakers of Antitrust Violations.  The Federal Trade Commission has accused several drugmakers of violating antitrust laws by agreeing to delay the U.S. launches of cheaper generic versions of two popular pain treatments.  It’s the first so-called “pay for delay” case brought by the FTC in which a drug’s original maker agreed not to sell its own “authorized generic” version until well after a generic drugmaker began selling its product.  These arrangements guaranteed the generic drugmakers would have no competition, and so could keep prices high, for at least six months.  The FTC alleges Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., maker of Opana ER pain pills and the Lidoderm pain patch, paid Impax Laboratories Inc. and Watson Laboratories Inc., respectively, to delay selling their approved generic versions.

      Uber CEO must face price-fixing lawsuit by passengers -U.S. judge.  Uber CEO Travis Kalanick failed on Thursday to win the dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit accusing him of scheming to drive up prices for passengers who use the popular ride-sharing service.  U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said Kalanick must face claims he conspired with drivers to ensure they charge prices set by an algorithm in the Uber smartphone app to hail rides, including “surge pricing” during periods of peak demand.  The plaintiffs claim that drivers conspired with Kalanick to charge fares set by the algorithm, with an understanding that other Uber drivers would do the same, even if they might fare better acting on their own.

      China antitrust proposals trigger foreign business fears over IP protection.  Foreign companies with dominant market positions could be increasingly forced to license technology to competitors or face sanctions under China’s latest draft antitrust policy guidelines, according to foreign business groups and attorneys.  The proposals include a so-called “essential facilities” doctrine, which assumes some core infrastructure and technology is so important, or the barriers to entry so high, that refusal to share constitutes monopolistic behavior.  If interpreted broadly, China’s antitrust policy could force companies to license their intellectual property to Chinese competitors or lower licensing costs to benefit local firms, at a time when China is seeking to promote domestic champions.

      EU Opens In-Depth Investigation Into Hutchison, Vimpelcom Italian Deal.  European Union antitrust regulators have opened an in-depth investigation into Hutchison’s planned merger of its Italian mobile telecoms business with Vimpelcom’s, on concerns it could lead to higher prices for consumers.  “The Commission has concerns that the transaction could lead to higher prices, less choice and reduced innovation for mobile customers in Italy,” the European Commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        April 1, 2016

        UK Payment Systems Regulator Issues “Final Guidance” Heralding Major Changes In Operation Of Payment Systems

        A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

        By Yulia Tosheva and Irene Fraile

        The UK Payment Systems Regulator (“PSR”) has published a final guidance on its approach to monitoring compliance with the EU Interchange Fee Regulation (“IFR”), which is changing the way payment systems operate in Europe.

        The PSR, which was launched in April 2015, is an independent economic regulator that oversees the UK payments industry.  The PSR is the first regulator of its kind in the world.

        The final guidance, which was issued on March 24, 2016, is of particular interest to payment card schemes, banks and merchants as it is the first document to shed light on the practical application of the IFR in the UK.  In view of the maturity and importance of the UK payment systems industry (currently valued at £75 trillion), the PSR’s guidance may assist other EU regulators in their implementation of the IFR.  It contains detailed provisions on the powers of the PSR to conduct investigations and to give directions, information-gathering, dispute resolution, and penalties for non-compliance.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

          March 21, 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 may investigate online content providers over cross-border trade.  European antitrust regulators are poised to investigate allegations that two out of three online content providers may be blocking consumers in another EU country from buying their products or services.  The findings by the European Commission came after a year-long investigation into barriers to cross-border trade in electronics, clothing, shoes and digital content in the 28-country bloc during which it surveyed more than 1,400 companies on their business practices.  The EU competition authority said 68 percent of providers of digital content, such as TV shows, films, music and sports, block consumers located in other EU countries, a practice known as geoblocking.

          Freedom picks Digital First Media to buy O.C. Register, Tribune Publishing’s bid rejected.  Freedom Communications has chosen Digital First Media to buy its two newspapers because it no longer believes Tribune Publishing can close the deal, according to an attorney for the bankrupt company.  The Los Angeles Times owner had been the top bidder, but its $56-million cash offer to buy the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise hit a roadblock late Friday when a U.S. District Court judge approved a temporary restraining order to stop the sale.   The U.S. Department of Justice sought a restraining order just hours after Tribune was named the top choice, citing antitrust concerns that the sale would harm competition and allow Tribune, which also owns the San Diego Union-Tribune, to raise prices to advertisers and subscribers in Orange and Riverside counties.

          EU regulators say antitrust exemption for insurers not needed.  A six-year scheme which exempts insurers from antitrust rules under certain conditions is no longer necessary, European Union regulators said on Thursday, following a two-year review.  Adopted in April 2010, the insurance block exemption regulation sets out the conditions under which insurers can exchange information on specific risks without running foul of the EU’s strict competition rules.  The European Commission said the system may not be required any more as a study showed fewer than 50 institutionalized pools may be covered by the exemption.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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