February 6, 2017

The Antitrust Week In Review

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

Drug Makers Accused of Fixing Prices on Insulin.  A lawsuit has been filed accusing three makers of insulin of conspiring to drive up the prices of their lifesaving drugs, harming patients who were being asked to pay for a growing share of their drug bills.  The price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, with the three manufacturers — Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — raising the list prices of their products in near lock step, prompting outcry from patient groups and doctors who have pointed out that the rising prices appear to have little to do with increased production costs.  The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, accuses the companies of exploiting the country’s opaque drug-pricing system in a way that benefits themselves and the intermediaries known as pharmacy benefit managers.

EU Probes Online Sales in Electronics, Video Games, Hotels.  EU antitrust regulators opened three investigations on Thursday into 15 companies suspected of restricting online sales of electronics, video games and hotel rooms to deny consumers choice and prevent them from buying at the lowest prices.  The EU aims to boost online cross-border sales and stop “geo-blocking” — restricting offers based on a customer’s location — which runs counter to its goal of a single market for digital goods and services that would underpin economic growth.  “E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

NCAA Agrees to Pay $208 Million Settlement in Antitrust Case.  The NCAA and 11 major athletic conferences announced Friday night they have agreed to pay $208.7 million to settle a federal class-action antitrust lawsuit filed by former college athletes who claimed the value of their scholarships was illegally capped.  The settlement still must be approved by a judge and it does not close the antitrust case.  The NCAA said in a statement the association and conferences “will continue to vigorously oppose the remaining portion of the lawsuit seeking pay for play.”

Walgreens and Rite Aid Cut Price of Merger.  Concerns about regulatory approval have weighed on Walgreens Boots Alliance’s bid to buy a top drugstore rival, Rite Aid, as the two cut the price of the deal while pushing back the expected closing date by six months.  In a joint statement, the retailers said that they would cut the price of the takeover to between $6.50 a share and $7 a share, potentially revaluing the transaction to as little as $6.8 billion.  When the transaction was announced in 2015, Walgreens had agreed to pay $9 a share, or $9.4 billion.

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    January 3, 2017

    The Antitrust Week In Review

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

    Russia’s Gazprom Files Proposals to EU Aimed at Ending Antitrust Case.  Russia’s Gazprom said it had filed proposals with the European Commission aimed at resolving a five-year EU case over the Russian gas giant’s alleged monopoly practices.  The Russian state gas exporter, which supplies a third of the EU’s gas, has been on the European Commission’s radar since 2012, culminating in charges last year that it overcharged customers in eastern and central Europe and blocked rivals.  Since then, Gazprom has offered concessions aimed at staving off a potential fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover.

    South Korean Antitrust Regulator Fines Qualcomm $865 Million.   South Korea’s antitrust regulator slapped a 1.03 trillion won ($865 million) fine on Qualcomm Inc. Wednesday for allegedly violating competition laws.  The Fair Trade Commission said that the San Diego, California-based company had engaged in unfair business practices in patent licensing and chip sales, including refusing to let rival chipmakers license patents essential for chip making.  The FTC said Qualcomm allegedly used its dominant position in the modem chip market to force handset makers to pay license fees for a broad set of patents under terms it set unilaterally and to coerce handset makers into signing licensing contracts.

    Abbott Gets U.S. Antitrust Approval to Buy St. Jude Medical.  Healthcare company Abbott Laboratories has won U.S. antitrust approval for its proposed $25 billion acquisition of medical device maker St. Jude Medical Inc., the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said.  Abbott agreed to divest two medical devices used in cardiovascular procedures to resolve FTC concerns the acquisition would stifle competition, the commission said in a statement.  “We continue to work to obtain final regulatory approvals and anticipate closing before the end of the year or shortly thereafter,” Abbott spokeswoman Elissa Maurer said in an email.

    FTC Seeks More Iinfo on Bass Pro-Cabela’s Deal.  U.S. fishing and hunting equipment retailer Cabela’s Inc., which is being bought by privately held rival Bass Pro Shops, said the Federal Trade Commission had sought more information from the companies about the deal.  As part of the proposed $5.5 billion deal, announced in October, Capital One Financial Corp. had said it would buy Cabela’s credit card business and signed a 10-year partnership with Bass Pro to issue credit cards to Cabela’s customers.  On Friday, Cabela’s said Capital One had informed the company that it does not expect to get approval for acquiring the credit card business, called World’s Foremost Bank, before Oct. 3, 2017, hence not allowing the deal to close in the first half of 2017.

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

      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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