March 20, 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.

EU’s Vestager Warns Companies Against Abusing Algorithms.  Europe’s antitrust chief on Thursday warned companies against using algorithms to block rivals or form cartels, saying she may slap heftier fines on them if they use such software to commit wrongdoing.  European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is poised to fine U.S. technology giant Google in the coming months for using its algorithm to unfairly demote rival shopping services in internet search results, said she was vigilant to such illegal practices.

British Regulators to Investigate 21st Century Fox’s Deal for Sky.  Britain asked regulators on Thursday to investigate whether 21st Century Fox’s $14.3 billion deal to take full control of the British satellite television giant Sky would give the media mogul Rupert Murdoch too much control over the country’s media landscape.  The takeover for the 61 percent of Sky that 21st Century Fox does not already own was agreed on in December and is the second such effort to combine the two companies since 2011.  The latest attempt quickly raised a wave of criticism in Britain, where Mr. Murdoch already holds several media interests.

EU Seeks to Encourage Whistleblowers in Fight Against Cartels.  EU antitrust regulators on Thursday unveiled plans to help individuals to blow the whistle on cartels while protecting their identity, a move which may lead to more cases of wrongdoing being uncovered in the future.  The European Commission, which currently relies on companies to alert them to cartels in exchange for no sanction, said the scheme is aimed at employees who want to do the right thing by stopping illegal price fixing.

Exclusive: Delrahim to Head Justice Department Aantitrust Unit – Sources.  Makan Delrahim, a veteran lobbyist on President Donald Trump’s transition team, is expected to be nominated to head the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, two sources familiar with the vetting process told Reuters on Friday.  Delrahim is expected to move to the Justice Department after finishing up in the White House counsel’s office, where he is working to steer Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch through the Senate confirmation process.

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Categories: Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

    March 13, 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.

    Google foe takes Android complaint to regulators.  Open Internet Project, whose members include Axel Springer and Getty Images, on Tuesday accused Alphabet unit Google of imposing anti-competitive curbs on Android smartphone makers, its second complaint against the U.S. tech giant.  The group, which lodged a complaint about Google’s comparison shopping service with the European Commission about three years ago, urged the EU competition authority to take action.  “Google once again, in breach of EU antitrust rules, abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators, aiming to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search,” OIP said in a statement.

    Chicago hospital system scraps merger over U.S. antitrust concern.  NorthShore University HealthSystem said on Tuesday it was scrapping plans to merge with another Chicago hospital system after losing a court fight with U.S. antitrust regulators who said the merged hospital system would control more than half the area’s general acute care inpatient services.  NorthShore said in a statement that a federal judge had ruled for the Federal Trade Commission, which argued that NorthShore’s deal to merge with Advocate Health Care violated U.S. antitrust law and would harm consumers by hiking healthcare costs and reducing incentives to upgrade services and improve quality, according to the December, 2015 complaint.

    Turkey to Investigate Antitrust Complaint Against Google.  Google faced another regulatory challenge last week when the authorities in Turkey opened an investigation into whether the search giant’s popular Android software had broken the country’s antitrust rules.  The investigation in Turkey is the latest legal problem for Google, which faces three separate competition charges in Europe and has already been found to breach antitrust legislation in Russia.  United States officials have also investigated the company over its Android and search services, but they have not brought a case.

    Court Upholds Foundation’s Antitrust Immunity.  A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled Edinboro University and its foundation are protected from antitrust laws after a group of local landlords claimed a conspiracy to monopolize the student housing market around the public university in northwestern Pennsylvania.  But the decision more narrowly interprets the university’s governmental antitrust immunity than did a lower court’s ruling.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Law and Monopolies, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      March 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.

      Twenty U.S. States Join Generic Drug Price-Fixing Lawsuit.  California, Illinois and 18 more states have joined a lawsuit filed last year alleging that six companies, including Mylan NV and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., conspired to push up prices of two generic drugs, the Connecticut attorney general’s office said on Wednesday.  Connecticut, which leads the group, and 19 other states filed the original lawsuit on Dec. 15.  The state lawsuit is part of a broader effort by the federal government, states and the U.S. Congress to address the rising cost of many generic drugs.

      AT&T-Time Warner Deal May Have Easier Path to Approval.  AT&T’s $85 billion purchase of Time Warner may be getting an easier path to approval after the chief telecommunications regulator says it isn’t likely to review the deal.  Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is telling The Wall Street Journal that the agency likely won’t be involved because of changes in the deal’s structure.

      Connecticut Says Will Not Drop Opposition to Anthem/Cigna Deal.  Connecticut said on Wednesday it had no plans to drop its opposition to health insurer Anthem’s proposed purchase of rival Cigna, even if the U.S. Justice Department decides to settle with the companies.  Anthem, which lost a district court fight brought by the Justice Department and 11 states, has kept pressing its bid to buy Cigna by appealing a lower court injunction stopping the deal and by reaching out to the new administration of President Trump in hopes of hammering out a settlement.  Connecticut said it was not giving up.

      Murdoch’s Fox Seeks EU Okay for $14.4 Billion Sky Takeover Bid.  Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox has asked EU antitrust regulators to approve its $14.4 billion takeover bid for European pay-TV company Sky, a filing on the European Commission showed on Friday.  The EU competition enforcer will decide by April 7 whether to clear the deal, demand concessions or kick off a five-month long investigation.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        February 27, 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.

        Should SCOTUS Review Nixed $7.2 Billion Credit-Card Antitrust Settlement?  Depending on which side you believe, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the biggest antitrust class action settlement in history last June, the appeals court either: drastically misread U.S. Supreme Court precedent in a way that will make it much more difficult and expensive to resolve big cases requesting both money damages and an injunction; or squelched a novel strategy that served the interests of the defendants while cutting off the rights of unrepresented future plaintiffs.  Thomas Goldstein and Eric Citron of Goldstein & Russell make a strong argument for the second option in their just-filed Supreme Court brief for objectors to the $7.2 billion settlement killed by the 2nd Circuit – a deal for cash and injunctive relief between the credit card companies Visa and MasterCard and merchants who accept the cards.

        Food Industry May Follow the Brewers’ Merger Frenzy.  As millennials became old enough to hang out in bars about 15 years ago, the likes of Budweiser and Miller started to taste flat.  Fancier drinks and craft beers cut into the brewing giants’ market shares.  A gusher of mergers followed, culminating in the $104 billion acquisition of SABMiller by Anheuser-Busch InBev.  Kraft Heinz’s $143 billion bid for Unilever last week, although quickly aborted, is a sign that the attention of millennials and the potential for mergers have shifted to the food industry.  In any such deals, antitrust regulators may force asset sales.

        EU Regulators Set to Clear Dow, DuPont Deal: Sources.  Dow Chemical and DuPont are set to win EU antitrust approval for their $130 billion merger, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, one of three mega deals in the agrochemicals industry.  The deal, which still needs approval from U.S. and other regulators, has faced intense scrutiny from the European Commission.  Of particular concern is combining the two companies’ agricultural businesses which sell seeds and crop protection chemicals, including insecticides and pesticides.

        U.S. Judge Dismisses Most of Euribor-Rigging Lawsuit.  A U.S. judge on Tuesday dismissed most of an investor lawsuit accusing several major banks of conspiring to manipulate the benchmark European Interbank Offered Rate, or Euribor, and related derivatives.  In a 100-page decision, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan said several claims in the proposed class action must fail because of a lack of evidence that the defendants conspired to restrain trade or because they involved foreign conduct.

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, General, International Competition Issues

          February 20, 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.

          Anthem Sues Cigna to Block Termination of Merger.  Anthem on Wednesday won a temporary restraining order that blocks smaller rival Cigna from officially terminating their proposed $54 billion merger, a transaction already rejected by U.S. antitrust regulators.  The deal would have created the largest U.S. health insurer.  Rivals Aetna and Humana had sought their own merger, representing an unprecedented consolidation among U.S. health insurers.  In separate rulings, federal judges struck down both deals as anticompetitive, at the request of the Justice Department.  Aetna and Humana said on Tuesday they were ending their deal, but Anthem filed an appeal of its ruling.

          Top Antitrust Senators Call for Sessions to Scrutinize AT&T-Time Warner Merger.  The top senators on the  Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel are urging the U.S. Department of Justice to scrutinize the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger for the possibility that it leads to anticompetitive practices.  The subcommittee’s chair, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointing to aspects of the deal that they find troubling.

          U.S. Antitrust Obstacles Seen for T-Mobile, Sprint Deal.  Japan’s SoftBank Corp Group may have renewed interest in combining its Sprint Corp with Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile US Inc., but a deal between the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers may not make it past U.S. regulators, antitrust experts and industry watchers said.  SoftBank is prepared to give up control of Sprint to T-Mobile, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.  The companies are expected to begin negotiations in April after the Federal Communications Commission’s auction of airwaves concludes.

          Kraft Heinz Offers to Buy Unilever in $143 Billion Deal.  The world’s grocery carts could soon be filled with more and more products from one global colossus.  Food, beverage and consumer-goods companies have been seeking merger partners to obtain greater scale and efficiencies as consumers, particularly younger shoppers, eschew the boxed and jarred foods of their parents’ generation.  Now, one such recently merged giant, Kraft Heinz, has set its sights on the biggest target to date: Unilever, the home of Dove soap and Axe body spray, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.  But a merger would be certain to draw antitrust reviews by regulators from many countries.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy, General

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