March 14, 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 Watchdog Could Expand Criteria to Initiate Merger Reviews.  European Union antitrust regulators are considering expanding the criteria that requires companies to seek merger approval in an effort to ensure deals involving start-ups producing key data or products do not slip through the net.  Under current rules, the European Commission only examines deals involving companies that exceed a minimum revenue threshold, meaning that some businesses have escaped scrutiny from the EU watchdog.  For example, Facebook’s $19 billion bid for mobile messaging start-up WhatsApp was not examined by the EU competition authority until the case was referred to it by national antitrust agencies two years ago.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Apple’s Appeal in E-Book Pricing Case.  The Supreme Court has refused to review an appeals court’s determination that Apple conspired with book publishers to raise the prices of digital books.  The court’s order puts into effect a $450 million settlement that Apple had agreed to pay if it lost the case.  E-book buyers will receive $400 million in cash and credits, and lawyers involved in the case will get $50 million.

Merger ‘Tsunami’ Taxes Resources of U.S. Antitrust Regulators.  U.S. antitrust enforcers are dealing with a “tsunami” of high-value, complicated mergers that have stretched their resources, according to the heads of the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission.  Some of the increased volume of mergers has been attributed to investors who have reacted to the improving economy.

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    March 7, 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.

    Europe’s Antitrust Enforcer on Google, Apple and the Year Ahead.  Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition commissioner, is expected to move ahead in the coming months in the antitrust case she filed against Google, in which she has accused the company of favoring some of its own services in search results over those of rivals.  The current charges, listed in a statement of objections, are just one in a number of competition-related headaches that the search engine may face this year in Europe.  Ms. Vestager is also investigating whether Apple received an unfair tax deal from Ireland, and Amazon from Luxembourg, that broke Europe’s state aid rules.

    News Corp to Settle In-store Promotions Litigation for $280 Million.  News Corp has announced that it has agreed to pay $280 million to resolve claims that it monopolized the market for in-store promotions at more than 50,000 retail stores across the United States.  The settlement with Rupert Murdoch’s company abruptly ended a trial that had begun when jurors in Manhattan federal court heard opening arguments in what had been a $2 billion lawsuit.  As part of the settlement with the plaintiffs, who consist of consumer packaged goods companies including Dial Corp and Kraft Heinz Co, News Corp said it will pay $250 million to settle the case and another $30 million to resolve related claims.

    Facebook Faces German Antitrust Investigation.  Facebook became the latest American technology company to face antitrust hurdles in Europe after the German competition authority opened an investigation into whether the company has abused its dominant position in social networking.  The move puts Facebook, which is used by many of Europe’s 500 million citizens, alongside other United States technology companies, like Google and Microsoft, which have also faced antitrust investigations into their activities across the region.  European officials have taken a tough stance on how American tech giants operate across the 28-member bloc, as many politicians here remain concerned that these companies often dominate many aspects of people’s digital lives, including social networking, online search and e-commerce.

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      March 2, 2016

      European Union Begins Looking at Comprehensive Regulation of Virtual Currencies

      A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

      By Yulia Tosheva, Richard Pike and James Ashe-Taylor

      The European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (“ECON”) took a tentative first step toward the regulation of virtual currencies regulation of virtual currencies last week with the issuance of a draft report on virtual currencies.

      The regulation of virtual currencies is already underway to a greater or lesser extent in a number of jurisdictions including the UK and Japan.

      The EU Initiative

      The ECON report stresses that while virtual currencies are associated with various risks, they do have the potential to contribute positively to consumer welfare and economic development by means of:

      Dramatically lowering transaction costs for payments and transfers of funds, possibly well below 1%, compared to 2 to 4% for traditional online payment systems, and to more than 7% on average for the cross-border transfer of remittances, hence potentially reducing global total costs for remittances by up to 20 billion euros;

      Reducing the cost of access to finance even without a traditional bank account;

      Enhancing the speed and resilience of payment systems thanks to the inherently decentralised architecture of distributed ledger technology (“DLT”);

      Using such systems to develop online micropayment systems that could replace some of the present data-hungry online business models that significantly challenge individual privacy; and

      Allowing different types of traditional and innovative payment mechanisms, from credit cards to mobile solutions, to merge into one secure and user-friendly application.

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        February 29, 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.

        Dow Chemical settles price-fixing case after Justice Scalia’s death. Dow Chemical has agreed to pay $835 million to settle a decade-long lawsuit on price fixing, saying that the death of Justice Antonin Scalia lessened its chances of overturning the verdict at the Supreme Court.  Dow, which is in the process of merging with Dupont, said on Friday that it decided to settle, without admitting any wrongdoing, citing “growing political uncertainties due to recent events within the Supreme Court.”  Dow had filed a petition in the Supreme Court arguing that a 2013 class-action judgment that Dow had conspired to artificially inflate polyurethane prices violated class action law in multiple ways, particularly with respect to two rulings authored by Justice Scalia, one in 2011 favoring Wal-Mart Stores and another in 2013 favoring Comcast.

        Honeywell Persists in Pursuit of United Technologies. Honeywell has made clear that it is not walking away from its proposed takeover of United Technologies, as a potential battle between the industrial giants became more public on Friday.  In publishing an 11-page pitch to United Technologies on the merits of a merger, Honeywell sought to sway shareholders of its competitor.  Later on Friday, United Technologies issued its latest rebuttal, again contending that a merger of the two—which would yield a nearly $160 billion conglomerate whose offerings run from building cooling systems to advanced jet engines—would never survive antitrust scrutiny.

        EU halts Halliburton, Baker Hughes deal review, awaits details. European Union antitrust regulators have halted their scrutiny of U.S. oilfield services provider Halliburton’s proposed takeover of Baker Hughes because the companies failed to provide some details of the $35 billion deal.  “This is a standard procedure on merger investigations which is activated if the notifying parties do not provide an important piece of information that the Commission has requested from them,” European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso stated.  The EU competition authority will set a new deadline for its decision when it has the required information from the companies.  Antitrust regulators are worried that higher prices and less innovation may follow the proposed merger.

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          February 26, 2016

          EU Telegraphs It Is Probing Whether Western Union Colluded To Drive Rivals Out Of Money-Transfer Market

          A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

          By Richard Pike and Yulia Tosheva

          The European Commission has reportedly launched a preliminary antitrust investigation into possible collusion by Western Union in the money remittance market.

          According to sources, the European Commission is investigating whether exclusivity contracts signed between money-transfer provider Western Union and retail outlets violate European Union competition rules.

          The European Commission is reportedly also looking into allegations that banks agreed to close accounts of some smaller money-transfer companies on the basis that they may be linked to drug-trafficking or terrorism.  This so-called de-risking strategy has been the subject of much discussion in the industry over the last few years, and gave rise to a claim in the English courts by one money transfer provider, Dahabshiil, which succeeded in using the Competition Act to get an interim injunction requiring Barclays to continue providing it with banking services.

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