April 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.

U.S. Sues ValueAct, Saying Hedge Fund Violated Antitrust Law.  Not long after Baker Hughes and Halliburton announced a merger agreement in November 2014, the prominent hedge fund ValueAct  started acquiring stakes in both energy giants.  The hedge fund came up with a plan if the $35 billion deal turned messy:  to push the chief executives to do what it took to ensure the deal went through.  That strategy (and when ValueAct came up with it) is at the heart of a $19 million antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.  According to the government, ValueAct violated the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act when it failed to notify regulators upon acquiring about $2.5 billion worth of stock in both Baker Hughes and Halliburton.

Mega deals morph into mega problems for Wall Street.  Some of the mega transactions that had champagne corks popping in boardrooms are running into antitrust problems and, in the case of pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc’s $160 billion takeover of rival Allergan PLC, political opposition to a deal that envisaged the biggest drug company in the United States moving to Ireland to lower its taxes.  The U.S. Treasury unveiled new rules last week that, while they did not name Pfizer and Allergan, had provisions that targeted a specific feature of their agreement and prompted both parties to walk away from what would have been the second-largest deal of all time.  The move by the Obama administration to change the rules has sent a chilling message to dealmakers and comes on top of a number of legal challenges to big transactions such as Halliburton Co’s takeover of rival oil services company Baker Hughes Inc. on antitrust grounds.

Justice Dept. Sues to Block Halliburton-Baker Hughes Merger.  The U.S. Department of Justice is suing to block the pending merger of Halliburton and Baker Hughes, the latest instance of the Obama administration taking a tougher stance on big-ticket deals.  In its lawsuit, filed in federal court in Delaware, the Justice Department is arguing that combining the two oil field services companies would cut competition in the industry to unacceptable levels.  “The proposed deal between Halliburton and Baker Hughes would eliminate vital competition, skew energy markets and harm American consumers,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement.

EU cuts SocGen antitrust fine by about half to 227.7 mln euros.  European Union antitrust regulators have cut Societe Generale’s rate-rigging fine by 49 percent to 227.72 million euros ($259.24 million) after the French lender recalculated the value of its sales.  France’s second-largest bank was hit with a fine of 446 million euros in December 2013, one of seven banks charged with rigging the euro interbank offered rate (Euribor) as a cartel.  “The amended fine is based on the amended value of sales data provided by Societe Generale in February 2016 after the bank realised that it had initially provided incorrect data to the Commission,” the European Commission said in a statement.

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    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

      August 10, 2015

      The Antitrust Week in Review

      U.S. hospitals urge DOJ antitrust probe of Anthem-Cigna deal.  U.S. hospitals are urging antitrust regulators to consider whether health insurer Anthem’s planned acquisition of rival Cigna would boost healthcare costs.  In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Hospital Association, the hospital industry’s largest lobbying group, said combining the No. 1 and No. 5 health insurers threatens to reduce competition in 817 geographic markets serving 45 million consumers.

      Judge Rejects Settlement in American Express Case.  Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn has rejected a proposed $75 million antitrust class-action settlement between American Express and a group of retailers.  The decision could have ripple effects for another antitrust settlement, a nearly $6 billion class action settlement covering many of the same merchants and Visa and MasterCard.

      Appeals Court Revives Antitrust Lawsuit Over ATM Fees.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has revived a lawsuit accusing MasterCard, Visa and three major banks of illegally fixing ATM prices at the expense of consumers.  The court ruled that a group of consumers and independent ATM operators could pursue claims that the companies conspired to overcharge consumers.  The decision reverses a federal district court judge who threw out the lawsuit in 2013.

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      Categories: Uncategorized

        June 1, 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.

        Teva Settles Cephalon Generics Case With F.T.C. for $1.2 Billion.  The Federal Trade Commission has announced that its seven-year lawsuit against Cephalon, now owned by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, would be settled for $1.2 billion, the largest amount ever secured by the competition watchdog.  The settlement resolves the FTC’s charges that Cephalon bought off generic drug makers selling far cheaper versions of Provigil, Cephalon’s prescription drug for sleep disorders.

        Apple loses bid to disqualify antitrust monitor – U.S. court.    The U.S. Court of Appeals has rejected Apple’s bid to disqualify an antitrust compliance monitor appointed after the technology giant was found liable for conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.  Although the appellate court said some of the charges against monitor Michael Bromwich gave it “pause,” the court held that Judge Denise Cote did not abuse her discretion in rejecting Apple’s bid to end his two-year appointment early.

        As Facebook Sweeps Across Europe, Regulators Gird for Battle.  In recent months, European regulators have placing Facebook under the microscope.  While one arm of the European Union is looking into whether Facebook and other tech companies unfairly favor their own services over those of rivals, at least five data protection watchdogs across the region are questioning Facebook’s privacy settings.  Plus, in a case that could have broad implications for many tech companies, the European Union’s top court will issue a preliminary decision next month on whether Facebook can continue transferring user data between Europe and the United States.

        Reynolds American wins U.S. antitrust approval to buy rival Lorillard.   Reynolds American has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy smaller rival Lorillard in a $27.4 billion deal that would combine the No. 2 and No. 3 U.S. cigarette companies.  The Federal Trade Commission said it would allow the acquisition to go forward on condition that the companies sell four cigarette brands – Winston, Kool, Salem and Maverick, which will be purchased by Imperial Tobacco Group.

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        Categories: Uncategorized

          May 11, 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.

          E.U. Commission Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into E-Commerce Sector.  European antitrust officials have opened an investigation into whether large technology companies are impeding competition in online shopping, the latest in a string of inquiries in Europe focused on the web’s biggest players.  According to Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s antitrust chief, the review will focus on how electronics, clothing, shoes and online content are bought and sold online, and whether e-commerce companies have created artificial barriers that prevent Europeans from buying goods across national borders.

          Top California court revives Cipro antitrust case.  The California Supreme Court has revived an antitrust class action accusing a drugmaker of paying to keep a generic version of Bayer AG’s antibiotic Cipro off the market.  The unanimous opinion marks the first time an appellate court has tackled so-called “pay for delay” deals since a landmark 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court held that such deals may be illegal.  The plaintiffs in the antitrust class action – a group of non-profits and individuals in California who bought Cipro – claim that Bayer (which settled the claims in 2013) violated California antitrust law by paying Barr Pharmaceuticals, (since bought by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries) $398 million to refrain from marketing a generic version of Cipro until Bayer’s patent on the drug expired.

          Sysco Urges Judge to Save US Foods Deal in Antitrust Duel.  Sysco Corp.’s takeover of US Foods Inc. would create an industry “behemoth” in food distribution, eliminating intense head-to-head competition between the companies, a U.S. lawyer argued at the start of a courtroom battle over the merger.  The FTC is asking a federal judge to block the $3.5 billion deal, arguing the merger would give Sysco a dominant share in an industry where it’s the biggest player, and lead to higher prices for restaurants, hotels, school cafeterias and other customers.

          SandRidge is target of antitrust grand jury probe: filing.    SandRidge Energy is the target of a federal grand jury investigation into violations of antitrust law related to the leasing of oil and gas properties, according to a regulatory filing by the company.  The Oklahoma-based company said in an SEC filing that the transactions subject to the government’s inquiry date from 2012 and prior years.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Uncategorized

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