July 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.

Price-Fixing Truck Makers Get Record E.U. Fine: $3.2 Billion.  The European Union’s antitrust chief imposed a record fine of 2.9 billion euros, or $3.2 billion, on a group of truck makers on Tuesday, part of a trend toward steeper penalties for competition violations in the 28-nation bloc.  The fine was for price-fixing and operating a secretive system aimed at delaying the installation of pollution-curbing exhaust pipes and engines.  Earlier this month, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, announced a new round of antitrust charges against Google, on suspicion that some of the company’s advertising products had restricted consumer choice.

U.S. Moves to Block Massive Health Insurer Deals Led by Anthem, Aetna.  U.S. antitrust officials on Thursday moved to block an unprecedented consolidation of the national health insurance market, filing a lawsuit against Anthem Inc.’s proposed purchase of Cigna Corp and Aetna Inc.’s planned acquisition of Humana Inc.  The U.S. Department of Justice said the two multibillion-dollar mergers would reduce competition, raise prices for consumers and stifle innovation if the number of large, national insurers were to fall from five to three.  It was the latest example of the Obama administration challenging massive combinations in major industries, from oilfield services to telecommunications.

Daimler Says It has Made Provisions for 1 Billion Euro Anti-Trust Fine.  German truck maker Daimler has made provisions to cover a billion-euro cartel fine imposed by the European Commission.  EU antitrust regulators handed down a record 2.93-billion-euro ($3.24 billion) fine on truck makers Daimler, Paccar, Volvo/Renault and Iveco for taking part in a cartel related to emissions-reducing technology.  “We can confirm that a settlement has been reached with the EU Commission in the antitrust investigation. The fine that has been imposed (on Daimler) amounts to approximately 1.009 billion euros,” Daimler said in a statement, adding that it had made provisions to cover the fine.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    July 19, 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 New Round of Antitrust Charges in Europe.  When it comes to Europe’s lengthy investigations into Google, Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition chief, is hoping that the third time’s a charm.  Ms. Vestager announced on Thursday a new round of antitrust charges against the company — the third set since early 2015 — claiming that some of the company’s advertising products had restricted consumer choice.  The efforts are part of her continuing push to rein in Google’s activities in the European Union, where the Silicon Valley company has captured roughly 90 percent of the region’s online search market.

    Antitrust ruling on big mergers expected soon.  A U.S. Justice Department decision on the proposed mergers of Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc., and Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp., could come as soon as this week.  Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna met earlier this month with Justice Department officials to make its case for its $37 billion merger with Louisville, Kentucky-based rival Humana, just two weeks after a similar meeting involving the $54 billion merger of Indianapolis-based Anthem and Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna, Bloomberg reported.

    Teva says Allergan deal to close ‘any time’, expects U.S. antitrust clearance.  Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd said on Wednesday it expected its $40 billion deal to buy Allergan Plc’s generics business to close “at any time,” even as the companies extended the deadline for completing the transaction to October to allow more time for the U.S. antitrust review.  The deal was announced more than a year ago and had been expected to wrap up last month, but it has taken longer as the companies have arranged sales of more drugs than anticipated to clear the antitrust regulators.  The deal closing is contingent on clearance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the antitrust regulator reviewing the deal, which the companies said they expect at any time.

    Bayer Raises Takeover Bid for Monsanto.  The German industrial giant Bayer raised its all-cash takeover bid for Monsanto on Thursday, turning up the heat in its pursuit of the American agricultural company.  In a news release, Bayer said that it had increased its offer to $125 a share from $122 a share.  The German company also proposed a $1.5 billion breakup fee if a merger of the two companies ran afoul of government regulators — a concession to concerns that a transaction could raise opposition from antitrust officials.  Though the two companies operate on separate sides of the agricultural business, regulators may closely scrutinize a merger that could put additional pricing pressure on farmers.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      July 11, 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.

      Aetna Meets with Justice Department Over Merger with Humana.  Aetna executives met with top antitrust officials of the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday to convince the government that asset sales it proposed would address potential competitive problems that could threaten its deal to buy rival Humana, according to a source.  Aetna’s plan to buy Humana would combine two of the largest providers of Medicare Advantage plans for elderly people, and investors are concerned that antitrust regulators could oppose the deal.  The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division is assessing both Aetna’s $34 billion merger as well as Anthem’s $44 billion deal to buy rival Cigna.

      EU Regulators Accept Antitrust Concessions from Maersk, MSC, Others.  European Union antitrust regulators accepted on Thursday an offer from Maersk , the world’s largest container shipping liner, and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines.  The case is being closely watched by other sectors such as supermarkets and chemicals companies, concerned that similar pricing methods could lead to charges of price fixing by competition enforcers.  The European Commission opened a case against the container shipping liners in late 2013, following dawn raids two years earlier.

      EU Set to Clear Italian Mobile Telecoms Merger-Sources.  CK Hutchison Holdings and Vimpelcom are set to win EU antitrust approval for their deal to merge their rival Italian mobile network operators after agreeing to concessions to help a new competitor break into the market, according to sources.  Approval of the 21.8-billion-euro deal to merge Hutchison’s 3 Italia with Vimpelcom’s Wind Telecommunicazioni would be welcome news for the industry after the European Commission blocked Hutchison’s similar deal in the UK to merge its Three UK subsidiary with Telefonica’s O2 UK.  European regulators fear that when such deals reduce the number of mobile network operators in a country to just three, competition would be insufficient to keep a lid on prices.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        July 5, 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.

        Appeals Court Nixes $7.25B Credit Card Swipe Fee Settlement.  A $7.25 billion settlement between merchants and Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. over credit card transaction fees was rejected Thursday by a federal appeals court, a ruling praised by a retail trade association as a victory for consumers.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan said the 12 million merchants covered by the antitrust class action were inadequately represented by law firms that gave merchants who stood to gain little or nothing no opportunity to opt out of the deal.   Jeffrey Shinder, managing partner of Constantine Cannon, which is representing dozens of major retailers challenging the settlement, including The Gap Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc., Starbucks Corp., Nike Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and The Wendy’s Co., praised the ruling, calling it “a vindication of pretty much everything we argued.”

        EU Regulators Readying Third Google Antitrust Charge: Sources.  Alphabet’s Google may face a third EU antitrust charge as soon as next month, this time focusing on its revenue mainstay AdWords ad placement service, according to sources.  The world’s most popular Internet search engine is already under fire from the European Commission for promoting its shopping service at the expense of rivals and for using its Android mobile operating system for smartphones to squeeze out competitors.  The Commission has asked Google rivals to share information related to search advertising with the tech giant, a step suggesting the EU competition enforcer could be poised to hit Google with a fresh charge, the sources said.

        Slowdown in Merger Deals Attributed to Political Uncertainty.  Uncertainty is being blamed for a string of declines in acquisitions announced during the first half of the year in almost every sector, location and size compared with the same period in 2015.  About $1.6 trillion worth of deals were announced this year through Thursday, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.  That represented a 19 percent slump from the first half of the year in 2015 and a slight increase from the same period in 2014.  Mergers and acquisitions bankers and lawyers have attributed the slowdown to concerns about mergers being blocked by antitrust regulators after some prominent deals fell apart for that reason.

        Supreme Court Agrees to Review ATM Fee Antitrust Lawsuit.  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals by Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc. and several U.S. banks seeking to throw out lawsuits claiming they conspired to inflate the prices of ATM access fees in violation of antitrust law.  The high court will hear the companies’ bid to overturn an August 2015 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that revived three related class action lawsuits.  The appeals court said a district court erred when it concluded that consumers had no standing to sue and had not adequately alleged antitrust violations.

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          June 29, 2016

          Brexit: The Long Road Ahead

          A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

          By James Ashe-Taylor 

          Less than a week after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the vote to “Leave” has settled nothing.

          This uncertainty was perhaps inevitable given that the referendum was fundamentally flawed. The Prime Minister should have delayed the process until the Leave supporters put forward a coherent, persuasive alternative to the status quo so that voters could then have been asked to choose between two clear alternatives.  Instead, the British people have voted against an existing system, but not in favour of something to replace it.  The result, not surprisingly, is enormous uncertainty.

          The failure of the Leave Campaign to present a robust, practical alternative to EU membership during the Referendum debate was to be expected given that its leaders ranged from ideologues, who argued that leaving the EU would automatically improve Britain’s prospects (without giving any plausible explanation of how that would happen), to those who, more prosaically, sought only political advantage. The fact that all the major political parties were in favour of Remain meant that Brexit supporters could escape the discipline and responsibility normally to be found in the production of political manifestos.

          As a result, no one knows precisely what the Leave vote means nor how the outcome of the Referendum will be given political effect.

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          Categories: International Competition Issues

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