June 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.

Merging UK Firms Face More Costs, Bureaucracy with Brexit.  British companies planning mergers with EU peers will face more legal costs and regulatory hassles after Britain leaves the European Union as they will have to deal with two antitrust watchdogs, according to competition experts.  On the other hand, freed from strict EU state aid rules, Britain would have a free hand to prop up ailing companies such as steel producers if it chose to do so.  Britain’s vote to leave the EU could upset the current system, under which British competition rules are modeled on EU laws, and decisions by the country’s courts and tribunals must be consistent with the principles and judgments of the top EU courts in Luxembourg.

Anthem Faces Showdown with Antitrust Cops in Bid for Cigna.  Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp. are preparing for a showdown with senior Justice Department officials in their effort to persuade the government to allow the health insurers to combine, lest they wind up dueling in court over a $1.85 billion breakup fee, according to sources.  This phase of a merger review can feel like a roller coaster ride, antitrust experts caution, with the outcome difficult to predict as companies jockey with enforcers in last-ditch meetings.

EU Regulators to Rule on $130 Billion Dow, DuPont Deal by July 28.  EU antitrust authorities will decide by July 28 whether to allow the $130 billion merger of U.S. chemical company Dow Chemical Co and its rival DuPont, one of several large agribusiness deals.  The companies requested approval on Wednesday, according to a filing on the European Commission website.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    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 13, 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. judge probes Uber over allegations of fraud in antitrust case. Uber must hand over documents to a federal judge probing whether private investigators hired by the ride-hailing company fraudulently sought information about its opponents in an antitrust case.  U.S. District court Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan is seeking to determine whether Uber instructed an investigator to lie in order to elicit information about Spencer Meyer, lead plaintiff in the antitrust lawsuit, and his attorney.  The suit, filed in December, alleges that Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick engaged in a price-fixing scheme with Uber drivers.  While the proposed class action names Kalanick and not the ride-hailing company, Uber is seeking to intervene in the lawsuit.

      U.S. Files Antitrust Case Against North Carolina’s Largest Health System. North Carolina’s largest health system faces allegations that it quashed competition with demands that insurers not steer consumers to rivals, in the latest sign of antitrust scrutiny across the consolidating health-care sector.  The U.S. Department of Justice and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a civil antitrust case against Carolinas HealthCare System on Thursday, alleging the system used the market power of its 10 hospitals in and around Charlotte, N.C., to win concessions from commercial insurers that stifled competition on hospital price and quality.  According to the lawsuit, Employers and consumers pay more for health care as a result.

      Glencore Must Face U.S. Lawsuit Over Zinc Prices. Two units of Anglo-Swiss mining company Glencore Plc must face a private antitrust lawsuit accusing them of trying to monopolize the market for special high grade zinc, driving up its price.  U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said zinc purchasers alleged “a plausible story of market control” by the Glencore units, Glencore Ltd and Pacorini Metals USA Inc, that violated the Sherman Act, a U.S. antitrust law.  In a 62-page decision, the judge also dismissed the purchasers’ claim that Glencore’s 2010 purchase of Pacorini was an illegal merger because its effect was to reduce competition.

      Hutchison Seeks EU OK for Vimpelcom Deal With Concessions. CK Hutchison Holdings has offered to strengthen rivals such as Swisscom’s Fastweb in return for EU antitrust approval for its plan to merge its Italian mobile business with that of Vimpelcom, according to a source.  The European Commission said on Tuesday that Hutchison has offered concessions in a bid for EU approval of the deal.  Hutchison, controlled by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, put in its proposal last Monday, according to a filing on the commission’s website, without providing details.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, 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

          May 16, 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.

          Google Faces Record 3 Billion Euro EU Antitrust Fine: Telegraph.  Google faces a record antitrust fine of about 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) from the European Commission in the coming weeks, according to the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph.  The European Union has accused Google of promoting its shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of rival services in a case that has dragged on since late 2010.  The Telegraph cited sources close to the situation as saying officials planned to announce the fine as early as next month.

          Office Depot and Staples Call Off Merger After Judge Blocks It.  A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a $6.3 billion proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot, dashing another huge deal and handing the Obama administration one more antitrust victory.  The decision is a setback for the beleaguered retailers, which have each endured years of slumping sales and increased competition from Amazon and other rivals.  The Federal Trade Commission had sued the two companies late last year, arguing that combining them would effectively create just one dominant retailer focused on pens, paper clips and Post-it notes.  Both companies said after the ruling that they planned to end their merger plans.

          FTC Taking Second Look at Google Search: Politico.  Federal Trade Commission officials are asking questions again about whether Alphabet Inc’s Google has abused its dominance in the Internet search market, Politico reported, citing sources familiar with the discussions.  The FTC’s senior antitrust officials have discussed the matter in recent months with representatives of a major U.S. company, which objects to Google’s practices, Politico reported.

          E.U. Regulators Block Merger of British Mobile Carriers on Competition Grounds.  European antitrust officials on Wednesday rebuffed renewed efforts to consolidate the region’s telecommunications sector, blocking a proposed $14.5 billion deal between two major British carriers.  Under the proposed deal, Hutchison Whampoa, one of the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s flagship companies, which owns the British operator Three, had sought to acquire O2, a rival in Britain owned by the Spanish telecom giant Telefónica.  But Europe’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, said the deal would limit consumer choice and could raise prices in Britain.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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