The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
American Express told it cannot enforce anti-steering rules against merchants. Merchants unhappy with the fees American Express charges them may steer customers toward less expensive cards without fearing retaliation from the credit card company, Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled in federal court in Brooklyn. The court issued a written ruling enjoining American Express from blocking restaurants, stores and other merchants from offering discounts for using lower-fee cards. Judge Garaufis ruled in February that American Express’ rules for merchants against such activity, known as steering, “imposed actual, concrete harms on competition in the credit and charge card network services market.” Constantine Cannon represented various merchants in commenting on the remedy adopted by the court.
Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron Call Off $10 Billion Merger. Two of the world’s largest manufacturers of the machinery used to produce semiconductors, Applied Materials of the United States and Tokyo Electron of Japan, dropped a $10 billion deal to merge after the U.S. Department of Justice said that combining their businesses would restrict competition. The companies failed to come up with a plan that could allay the federal regulators’ antitrust concerns about combining two of the three largest players in a sector crucial to the production of modern electronic devices, from smartphones to televisions.
U.S. Supreme Court weighs accepting ProMedica antitrust case. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering hearing a Federal Trade Commission case on whether Ohio-based health system ProMedica violated antitrust laws when it acquired financially struggling St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, Ohio. Some legal experts say it’s unlikely the high court will agree to hear ProMedica’s appeal of a lower court ruling ordering it to divest the hospital. Constantine Cannon partner Matthew Cantor commented that he does not “see novel legal issues that the court is going to want to consider.” The widely watched appeal comes as hospitals considering consolidation fret about antitrust regulators’ increasingly aggressive approach.
S.Korea antitrust body investigating Oracle for software bundling. South Korea’s antitrust body is investigating U.S. database services provider Oracle for bundling its new software offerings into maintenance services contracts with customers. Hwang Won-chul, a director of the Korea Fair Trade Commission, indicated that the antitrust regulator is investigating Oracle because its software bundling is seen as limiting competition.