The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
AT&T Loses Bid to Obtain White House Call Logs. A federal judge blocked AT&T’s move to obtain communication logs between the Justice Department and the White House on Tuesday, hampering the phone giant’s argument that politics played a role in the government’s decision to halt a merger with Time Warner. Judge Richard J. Leon of United States District Court in Washington, who is overseeing a trial over the deal, said AT&T did not sufficiently show in pretrial discussions that it was treated differently from other companies. “Defendants have fallen far short of establishing that this enforcement action was selective,” Judge Leon said. The decision puts a crimp in AT&T’s defense for its $85 billion proposed merger with Time Warner.
Trump Antitrust Cop Splits With EU Over Probes of Big Tech. U.S. President Donald Trump’s top antitrust watchdog split with EU regulators over their enforcement of big U.S. technology firms, saying their approach risked deterring innovative startups. Google, Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Facebook Inc. have all suffered run-ins with the European Union’s powerful antitrust arm, part of a wider crackdown in Europe against dominant technology firms that has cost some of them billions of euros. Makan Delrahim, picked last year by Trump to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division, cited enforcement of digital markets as one of the differences between how the U.S. and the EU conduct antitrust policy. EU law says dominant firms have a special responsibility not to hinder competition, an approach Delrahim criticized.
Battle Lines Drawn as SolarCity’s Antitrust Case Faces Supreme Court Review. In 2015, SolarCity, now Tesla, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Salt River Project, claiming the Arizona utility’s $50-per-month demand charges for solar net-metered customers constituted an unlawful use of its monopoly powers to stifle competition. The case garnered national attention for its unusual approach to fighting the rise of demand charges, fixed charges and other costs for solar-equipped customers via antitrust law, and its potential implications for ratemaking policy across the country. But before that case can go forward, the U.S. Supreme Court has to decide a separate legal issue — whether SRP is or is not immune from antitrust law as a publicly owned utility.
U.S. sues to stop Norway’s Wilhelmsen from buying rival Drew Marine. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Friday it would challenge in court the Norwegian company Wilhelmsen Maritime Services’ plan to buy smaller U.S. rival Drew Marine Group. The FTC said the $400 million proposed deal would reduce competition in the market for marine water treatment chemicals, used in a ship’s boiler water and engine cooling water systems. If Wilhelmsen closed the deal with New Jersey’s Drew Marine, the FTC said the company would have 60 percent of the market for marine water treatment chemicals, while its closest competitor would have 5 percent.