January 9, 2017

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. Bucked Rest of World on Antitrust Enforcement in 2016.  It was a record year for antitrust cartel enforcement in 2016, with $6.7 billion in total fines levied — but not in the U.S., which had its slowest year in a decade, according to a new report.  Even as the European Union levied a record $4.1 billion in antitrust fines, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division’s total fines nosedived to $387 million in 2016 — down from a record $2.85 billion in 2015.

U.S. Loses Bid to Overturn AmEx Antitrust Decision.  A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected the U.S. government’s request that it reconsider its decision allowing American Express to stop merchants from encouraging customers to use rival cards that charge lower fees.  Without comment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit let stand its Sept. 26 reversal of a lower court ruling that had struck down AmEx’s “anti-steering” rules.  That reversal by a three-judge panel allowed New York-based AmEx to block merchants that accept its cards from steering customers to rivals Visa and MasterCard, even if such steering would have saved them money.

Former Barclays Trader Pleads Guilty in Currency Manipulation Conspiracy.  A former Barclays trader pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges arising from a global investigation into the manipulation of foreign-exchange prices at major banks, according to the U.S. Justice Department.  Jason Katz, a former Barclays trader who later worked at BNP Paribas, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to participating in a price-fixing conspiracy, becoming the first person to admit criminal wrongdoing in the inquiry.  Mr. Katz’s plea came after Barclays and three other banks pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to manipulate currency prices.

Euronext Offers to Buy Unit of London Stock Exchange for $536 Million.  Euronext said on Tuesday that it had offered to buy the French arm of the London Stock Exchange Group’s majority-owned clearing business, as the British company looks to win regulatory approval for a merger with Deutsche Börse.  The London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Börse agreed in March to a merger, which would create Europe’s largest stock market operator by far, combining exchanges in Britain, Germany and Italy.  In July, shareholders from the two exchanges approved the deal, the companies’ third attempt to come together since 2000.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    January 3, 2017

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

    Russia’s Gazprom Files Proposals to EU Aimed at Ending Antitrust Case.  Russia’s Gazprom said it had filed proposals with the European Commission aimed at resolving a five-year EU case over the Russian gas giant’s alleged monopoly practices.  The Russian state gas exporter, which supplies a third of the EU’s gas, has been on the European Commission’s radar since 2012, culminating in charges last year that it overcharged customers in eastern and central Europe and blocked rivals.  Since then, Gazprom has offered concessions aimed at staving off a potential fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover.

    South Korean Antitrust Regulator Fines Qualcomm $865 Million.   South Korea’s antitrust regulator slapped a 1.03 trillion won ($865 million) fine on Qualcomm Inc. Wednesday for allegedly violating competition laws.  The Fair Trade Commission said that the San Diego, California-based company had engaged in unfair business practices in patent licensing and chip sales, including refusing to let rival chipmakers license patents essential for chip making.  The FTC said Qualcomm allegedly used its dominant position in the modem chip market to force handset makers to pay license fees for a broad set of patents under terms it set unilaterally and to coerce handset makers into signing licensing contracts.

    Abbott Gets U.S. Antitrust Approval to Buy St. Jude Medical.  Healthcare company Abbott Laboratories has won U.S. antitrust approval for its proposed $25 billion acquisition of medical device maker St. Jude Medical Inc., the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said.  Abbott agreed to divest two medical devices used in cardiovascular procedures to resolve FTC concerns the acquisition would stifle competition, the commission said in a statement.  “We continue to work to obtain final regulatory approvals and anticipate closing before the end of the year or shortly thereafter,” Abbott spokeswoman Elissa Maurer said in an email.

    FTC Seeks More Iinfo on Bass Pro-Cabela’s Deal.  U.S. fishing and hunting equipment retailer Cabela’s Inc., which is being bought by privately held rival Bass Pro Shops, said the Federal Trade Commission had sought more information from the companies about the deal.  As part of the proposed $5.5 billion deal, announced in October, Capital One Financial Corp. had said it would buy Cabela’s credit card business and signed a 10-year partnership with Bass Pro to issue credit cards to Cabela’s customers.  On Friday, Cabela’s said Capital One had informed the company that it does not expect to get approval for acquiring the credit card business, called World’s Foremost Bank, before Oct. 3, 2017, hence not allowing the deal to close in the first half of 2017.

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

      December 27, 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.

      AMC wins U.S. antitrust approval to buy Carmike Cinemas with conditions. AMC Entertainment Holdings won U.S. antitrust approval with conditions to buy smaller competitor Carmike Cinemas Inc in a $1.2 billion deal that would create the biggest U.S. movie theater chain.  The U.S. Justice Department said it approved the deal on condition that AMC and Carmike divest theaters in 15 markets and take steps to ensure that National Cinemedia and Screenvision, the two companies that make and sell pre-show advertising entertainment, remain viable.  Kansas-based AMC, which is majority-owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group, has about 380 theaters, while Georgia-based Carmike has 276 theaters, according to their websites.

      American Airlines wins $15 million in antitrust case against Sabre. American Airlines Group Inc won about $15.3 million in an antitrust lawsuit that accused airline booking service Sabre Corp of harming competition and charging grossly inflated booking fees.  The Manhattan federal jury awarded nearly $5.1 million, a fraction of the up to $73 million American Airlines was seeking at trial.  But the sum automatically will be tripled under federal antitrust law.

      G.M.’s Venture in China Fined $29 Million Under Antimonopoly Law. General Motors’s main joint venture in China was fined $29 million on Friday on charges that it suppressed competition by enforcing minimum sales prices for dealers.  It is the latest in a string of penalties against non-Chinese auto brands under the country’s antimonopoly law.  Chinese regulators have punished companies in several industries, like milk and medical devices, under the 2008 law in what appears to be an effort to force down consumer prices.

      Rite Aid to sell 865 stores to Fred’s. Rite Aid Corp said it would sell 865 stores to Fred’s Inc for $950 million to satisfy antitrust concerns over its proposed takeover by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.  Rite Aid and Walgreens were widely expected to divest stores in states where the combined company would have a particularly strong position.  Walgreens has 13,200 stores, nearly 60 percent of which are in the United States, while Rite Aid has 4,570 stores in the United States.  Walgreens said in October 2015 it would buy smaller peer Rite Aid for $9.4 billion to widen its U.S. footprint.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        December 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.

        E.U. Fines Three Banks About $520 Million for Interest Rate Collusion.  European antitrust regulators on Wednesday fined Crédit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase a total of just over 485 million euros for colluding to fix benchmark interest rates tied to the euro.  The penalties, equivalent to about $520 million, came more than two years after the European authorities issued a statement of objections — a formal step in antitrust investigations — against the three banks.  The inquiry began in 2011.

        On Antitrust, Trump Signals a Return to the Bush Years.  As self-styled populist Donald Trump prepares to take office, sector-shaping mergers in media and health care stand poised to remake huge swaths of the nation’s economy, prompting concern among Democrats and Republicans about how consumers may be affected.  Anthem is pursuing a $54 billion purchase of Cigna to create the nation’s largest health insurance company, Aetna is angling to acquire Humana for $37 billion, and AT&T hopes to complete an $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner – transactions that together would amount to 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.  Despite his populist rhetoric on the campaign trail, Trump’s appointments suggest he’ll pursue fewer protections for consumers.

        Aetna CEO Defends Merger with Humana in Antitrust Trial.  Aetna’s chief executive denied on Friday that Aetna’s withdrawal from some Obamacare exchanges was in retaliation for government efforts to halt its merger with Humana, as he sought to convince a federal judge to approve the deal.  The U.S. Justice Department sued to stop the $34 billion tie-up in July, saying that it and another insurance mega merger, Anthem’s planned purchase of Cigna, would mean higher prices and worse service for many consumers.

        Alaska Airlines Settles Lawsuit Against Virgin America Deal.  Alaska Airlines has removed its last major hurdle to buying Virgin America.  Alaska said Wednesday it agreed to settle a private antitrust lawsuit that threatened to hold up its $2.6 billion purchase of Virgin America.  The settlement came a day after the U.S. Justice Department approved the purchase, but only after Alaska agreed to scale back a partnership it has with American Airlines on some routes.

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

          November 28, 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.

          Trump Picks Regulation Opponents to Lead FCC Transition.  President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of experts to focus on new policies at the Federal Communications Commission signals a regime that will have a “lighter” touch on regulation and be more likely to favor large mergers in telecoms industries, analysts said.  Economist Jeff Eisenach and former Sprint Corp lobbyist Mark Jamison were named by Trump’s transition team to oversee hiring and policy for the FCC.  They both oppose some recent telecom industry regulations resisted by telecom and cable heavyweights, such as Comcast Corp and AT&T Inc, and have voiced support for mega mergers in the past.

          Exclusive: Microsoft Set to Win EU Approval for LinkedIn Buy – Sources.  Microsoft is set to gain EU approval for its $26 billion buy of professional social network LinkedIn with tweaks to concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns, three people close to the matter said on Wednesday.  Microsoft told the European Commission that it would still allow LinkedIn’s rivals access to its software such as its Outlook program and give hardware makers the option of installing competing professional social networks on computers after the acquisition.

          U.S. Court Upholds AstraZeneca, Ranbaxy Win in Nexium Antitrust Trial.  A U.S. appeals court upheld AstraZeneca Plc and Ranbaxy Laboratories’ victory in a lawsuit accusing them of reaching an illegal deal to delay the launch of a generic version of AstraZeneca’s heartburn drug Nexium.  A panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston refused to throw out a December 2014 jury verdict in favor of AstraZeneca and Ranbaxy, which was acquired in March 2015 by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

          Anthem Argues Fortune 500 Will Not Suffer from Cigna Deal.  Anthem Inc. and the U.S. Justice Department dug in their heels in court over whether the lower prices the health insurer expects to negotiate after buying smaller rival Cigna Corp are an efficiency that benefits customers or an antitrust violation.  In the first phase of what could be a two-stage trial, a lawyer for Anthem argued that the $45-billion deal, which was announced more than a year ago, would create a new, bigger insurer with the power to push down prices that it would pass onto customers.  But the Justice Department argued that any cost cuts would come from Anthem using its clout in the market to force hospitals and doctors to work for less.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

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