The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Lawsuit by Minor Leaguers. The Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit filed by minor league baseball players accusing Major League Baseball of colluding to suppress wages, leaving intact a District Court ruling that dismissed the case. In a one-sentence announcement Monday, the Supreme Court said it would not accept Miranda v. Selig, a suit filed by four minor leaguers in December 2014 alleging MLB’s hiring and employment policies violated antitrust laws by restraining competition among teams and illegally depressing minor league salaries. U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. dismissed the case the following September, citing the antitrust exemption granted professional baseball by the Supreme Court in 1922 and the failure of Congress to alter it for minor leaguers in the Curt Flood Act of 1998.
CVS likely wants FTC antitrust review, not Justice Department, of Aetna deal. It is uncertain who in the U.S. government will carry out an antitrust review of CVS Health Corp’s deal to buy health insurer Aetna Inc, but the drugstore company is likely hoping the potentially more lenient Federal Trade Commission gets the nod, antitrust experts say. The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission share the job of reviewing mergers to make sure they don’t hurt consumers, but sometimes it comes down to a coin toss as to who reviews a deal that involves both agencies’ areas of expertise. The Justice Department might be best-placed since it recently reviewed, and stopped, two insurance industry tie-ups, including Aetna’s plan to buy rival Humana Inc.
Trump and Warren Find Common Ground on Antitrust. President Trump and Senator Elizabeth Warren make odd antitrust bedfellows. Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, says megadeals like Aetna’s $77 billion sale to CVS could kill competition. She also backs the Justice Department’s fight against an AT&T-Time Warner merger and has concerns about past merger remedies. That puts her in the same camp as the president. She laid out her views on deal making in a speech on Wednesday. AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, she said, would mean higher prices, fewer choices and worse service for consumers. That echoes Mr. Trump’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, and the Justice Department’s November lawsuit to block the deal, which asserted that the merger would leave millions of television viewers paying more and would slow innovations like video streaming.
AT&T/Time Warner antitrust trial set for March. The trial to determine if the U.S. Department of Justice can stop AT&T Inc’s $85 billion purchase of media company Time Warner Inc will begin on March 19 with no decision expected before the companies’ April 22 deadline to complete the deal, a federal judge said on Thursday. Time Warner and AT&T, which is the No. 2 U.S. wireless company and also owns DirecTV, announced their deal in October 2016, but it was not until last month that the Justice Department sued AT&T to block the deal, arguing it could raise prices for rivals and pay-TV subscribers and hamper the development of online video. Judge Richard Leon said during a hearing on Thursday he would likely not have a decision by the deadline in the companies’ merger agreement, but would rule in late April or May.