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. top court to review antitrust claims against American Express. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether American Express Co. is violating federal antitrust law by forbidding merchants that accept its credit cards from encouraging customers to use rival cards that charge lower fees. The justices will hear an appeal by 11 states led by Ohio that had sued American Express of a 2016 lower court ruling that endorsed the legality of the company’s “anti-steering” provisions in contracts with merchants. Merchants annually pay more than $50 billion in so-called swipe fees to process credit card transactions, and these fees can be passed along to customers through higher prices.
Trump names Washington insiders to head antitrust, consumer protection agency. The White House formally announced on Thursday the president will nominate Washington antitrust lawyer Joseph Simons to the Federal Trade Commission, along with Rohit Chopra, a former official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Once the two are confirmed by the Senate, Simons will be named to chair the agency, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law and investigates allegations of deceptive behavior by companies. The FTC has five seats, and no more than three can be from one party.
BMW Headquarters Are Raided in Collusion Inquiry. Antitrust investigators conducted a surprise raid on the headquarters of BMW in Munich as part of an investigation into possible illegal collusion among German automakers, the company acknowledged Friday. European antitrust authorities said in July that they were looking into allegations that Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW conspired to hold down prices of crucial technology, possibly including emissions equipment. The raid, which took place on Monday but did not come to light until Friday, is a sign that the investigation — which has not led to any formal charges — may be intensifying.
Time-Warner, AT&T win conditional antitrust nod in Brazil. Brazil’s antitrust authority on Wednesday approved a merger of Time-Warner Inc. and AT&T Inc., and allowed the companies to keep all of their assets in the country, under certain conditions. The Brazilian regulator Cade unanimously voted to approve the deal, which is facing strong regulatory scrutiny in the United States, as long as the companies’ operations in Brazil remain separate and agree not to share sensitive information. The merged company must also disclose the terms of all content licensing and TV programming deals to Cade, which will assess if they undermine competition in the market.