December 28, 2015

The Antitrust Week In Review

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

Staples says U.S. regulators’ complaint against merger is “misguided.”  Staples is accusing federal regulators of applying antitrust laws in a “misguided” way to try to block its $6.3 billion merger with smaller office supply retailer Office Depot.  Staples charged in a court filing that the Federal Trade Commission used “selective documentation” to show that the merger partners were the only companies competing for large, national customers.

British Authorities Accuse 11th Person of Rigging Benchmark Interest Rate.  British authorities have begun criminal proceedings against a former Société Générale employee in a continuing investigation into the manipulation of a global benchmark interest rate.  Stephane Esper, the former Société Générale employee, is the latest person expected to face criminal charges in an inquiry by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, which investigates financial crime, related to the manipulation of the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor.  The fraud office announced in November that it expected to bring conspiracy to defraud charges against 10 current and former employees of Barclays and Deutsche Bank when they make their first court appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London in January.

Songkick Sues Live Nation, Saying It Abuses Its Market Power.  In a case that offers a glimpse into the lucrative but often hidden business of concert tickets, a small company has sued Live Nation Entertainment in federal court, accusing the multibillion-dollar concert giant of abusing its market power to control the sales of tickets through musicians’ websites and fan clubs.  Songkick — a concert listings and ticketing company based in New York that has worked with artists like Adele, Paul McCartney, Ellie Goulding, Jackson Browne, Miranda Lambert and Ricky Martin — filed its suit on Tuesday in United States District Court in Los Angeles, accusing Live Nation and its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, of interfering in Songkick’s business in violation of federal antitrust law.

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

    December 14, 2015

    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, DuPont Set $130 Billion Megamerger, Could Spark More Deals.  Chemical giants DuPont and Dow Chemical Co have agreed to combine in an all-stock merger valued at $130 billion in a first step toward breaking up into three separate businesses, a move that pleased activist investors and could trigger more consolidation.  A Wells Fargo analyst dubbed this proposed combination of two of the biggest and oldest U.S. chemical producers the “deal of three centuries.”  However, analysts think the deal is likely to face intense regulatory scrutiny, especially with respect to the combination of the companies’ agricultural businesses, which sell seeds and crop protection chemicals, including insecticides and pesticides.

    Qualcomm is Accused of Violating Antitrust Rules in Europe.  The European Commission has filed antitrust charges against the chip maker Qualcomm, the latest in a growing number of competition investigations targeting American technology companies.  Europe’s antitrust officials accuse Qualcomm, one of the world’s largest makers of chips, of abusing its dominant market position in the region by offering financial incentives to smartphone and tablet manufacturers that agreed to buy equipment solely from Qualcomm.  The company’s chips are widely used in smartphones and other mobile devices.

    Judge Restores U.S. Airways’ Damages Claims in Sabre Antitrust Case.  A federal judge has restored US Airways Inc’s ability to seek about $210 million of damages in its antitrust lawsuit accusing Sabre Corp of inflating booking fees, even after the carrier had waived damages exceeding a mere $20.  Saying the case mattered to consumers hoping to keep down the cost of flying, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan said “the interest of justice would be best served” by letting US Airways, now part of American Airlines Group Inc, seek meaningful, rather than nominal, damages.  US Airways alleges that Sabre charged inflated fees and suppressed competition, impeding travel agents and others from using cheaper alternative means to book seats.

    GE Scraps $3.3 Billion Appliance Unit Sale to Electrolux.  GE has scrapped a $3.3 billion plan to sell its home appliance business to the Swedish company Electrolux, a deal opposed by U.S. regulators over antitrust concerns.  Electrolux is the world’s second-biggest home appliance maker after U.S. rival Whirlpool.  It sells most of its products in the U.S. under the Frigidaire brand.  The U.S. Department of Justice was suing to stop the deal, claiming that it would have eliminated a major competitor and left Electrolux and Whirlpool as the only big companies in the U.S. selling cooking appliances such as ovens and ranges.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      November 30, 2015

      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. probing Comcast’s role in ‘spot’ cable ad sales market.  The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Comcast Corp, the biggest U.S. cable TV provider, is blocking competition in cable advertising sales, according to a source.  The DOJ’s Antitrust Division reportedly has sent civil investigative demands to video distribution companies in an effort to discover whether Comcast was seeking to dominate the “spot” cable ad sales business in areas where Comcast offers service.  The spot cable advertising market has been estimated to be worth $5.4 billion nationally.

      Microsoft settles suit tied to compliance with EU antitrust case.  Microsoft has settled a lawsuit stemming from a costly violation of its agreement with European Union antitrust regulators to offer consumers the option of using other companies’ Web browsers.  A federal judge in Seattle this given preliminary approval to a settlement between Microsoft shareholders and the company that will create an office responsible for monitoring the company’s compliance with antitrust regulations.  Microsoft will establish an Antitrust Compliance Office to oversee compliance with any EU or U.S. antitrust matters, and dedicate up to $42.5 million over a five-year period to funding the effort.

      Ball offers to sell 11 plants in bid for EU Okay for Rexam Buy-Sources.  U.S. drinks can maker Ball Corp is ready to sell 11 plants in Europe in a bid to convince European Union antitrust regulators to approve its 4.43 billion pound offer for British peer Rexam, according to sources.  The world’s two largest beverage can makers reportedly want to merge to better manage capital spending and cut costs.  However, the European Commission fears the deal would push up prices for companies and consumers.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        November 9, 2015

        The Antitrust Week In Review

        Google says an EU antitrust fine would be ‘inappropriate.’  Google is hitting back at European Union antitrust regulators’ threats of a hefty fine, saying this would be inappropriate because of the unusual nature of the case and its willingness to settle the case with concessions last year.  In its reply to the European Commission’s charge sheet, the world’s most popular search engine also criticized regulators for not taking into account the fact that it was offering a free search service.  The company’s robust defense came after the Commission capped a five-year investigation with accusations that Google distorted search results to favor its shopping service, harming both rivals and users.

        Ex-Player’s Suit Challenges N.C.A.A.’s Transfer Rules.  A former college football player has filed suit against the N.C.A.A., charging that the association’s transfer rules and limits on scholarships violate United States antitrust laws. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Indianapolis on Thursday on behalf of the former Weber State cornerback Devin Pugh, seeks to allow players to transfer freely between colleges and to abolish the cap on football scholarships — currently 85.  N.C.A.A. rules require basketball and football players in its top tier of competition to sit out a season if they change universities, unless they are granted a waiver by the N.C.A.A.

        EU antitrust regulators charge 10 Asian capacitor makers over cartel.  EU antitrust regulators are charging that 10 Asian makers of electrolytic capacitors illegally fixed prices through a cartel over a 17-year period.  The European Commission said the cartel operated from 1997 to 2014, with the companies holding a series of multilateral meetings in Japan to discuss future market trends, prices and customer data.  Electrolytic capacitors control the flow of electricity in a variety of products including smartphones, TVs, games consoles and cameras.

        EU regulators want to boost national antitrust powers, seek feedback.  EU antitrust regulators are seeking public feedback over how to strengthen national competition authorities in the 28-country bloc, some of whom are currently limited in their access to cloud-based information or in the amount of penalties they can impose.  European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that while some agencies enjoyed the same powers as the European Commission, some lacked essential tools to deter anticompetitive practices.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          October 26, 2015

          The Antitrust Week in Review

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

          Clinton Questions Plans for Health Insurers to Merge.  Hillary Clinton is indicating the antitrust approach a new Clinton administration may take with her recent comments that two major health insurers preparing multibillion dollar acquisitions could tip “the balance of power” too far away from consumers.  The Democratic presidential candidate has said she has “serious concerns” with the proposed acquisition of Cigna by Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem, and plans by Aetna to acquire Medicare Advantage coverage provider Humana.

          FedEx, TNT say no EU antitrust objections to $5 billion merger.  EU antitrust regulators have no objections to FedEx’s 4.4 billion euro ($5 billion) acquisition of Dutch peer TNT Express, according to the companies.  With a European market share of 17 percent, the combined company would be Europe’s second-largest delivery services business, behind Deutsche Post’s DHL but ahead of UPS.  The deal would also strengthen FedEx’s position as the world’s No.3 player.

          Electrolux offers to settle U.S. antitrust fight over appliance deal.  The U.S. Department of Justice is reacting negatively to an offer by AB Electrolux to settle its fight with the Justice Department over whether it will be allowed to buy General Electric’s appliance business.  Electrolux claims it is working with third parties who may be interested in buying divested assets.  While the Justice Department did not reject the settlement, a government lawyer indicated the parties were far apart, stating “We’re on Earth and they’re on Mars.”

          Yahoo to Team Up With Google in Internet Search, Advertising.  Yahoo hopes to lean on Google’s expertise in Internet search and advertising in an attempt to boost its revenue.  Yahoo’s proposed three-year partnership with Google must still be approved by antitrust regulators.  Although Yahoo tried to team up with Google in 2008 as part of its defense against a takeover attempt by Microsoft, that deal unraveled after the U.S. Justice Department threatened to block the partnership on the grounds that it would thwart competition.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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