The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Visa, Mastercard reach $6.2 billion settlement over card-swipe fees. Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc., and a number of U.S. banks on Tuesday agreed to pay $6.2 billion to settle a long-running lawsuit brought by merchants over the fees they pay when they accept card payments. Visa and Mastercard previously reached a $7.25 billion settlement with the merchants in the case, but that deal was thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2016 and the U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to revive it. The deal had been the largest all-cash U.S. antitrust settlement, although its value shrank to $5.7 billion after roughly 8,000 retailers opted out.
AT&T Fires Back in Bid to Preserve Its Deal With Time Warner. Fighting to defend its $81 billion takeover of Time Warner from a government challenge, AT&T is arguing the Trump Justice Department has failed to show that the merger will raise prices for pay-TV programming and for the consumers who watch it. The AT&T-Time Warner marriage was completed this spring soon after a federal judge approved it. But government antitrust regulators filed to have the judge’s ruling overturned, setting the stage for a landmark competition case in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. In a filing Thursday, the phone and pay-TV giant asserted the merger will save it money on content from Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, enabling it to cut charges to its DirecTV customers by at least $78 million a year.
Cigna deal gets antitrust nod, positive sign for CVS/Aetna. Health insurer Cigna Corp.’s $52 billion acquisition of pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co. has passed U.S. antitrust scrutiny, the companies said last week, allowing them to proceed with a combination they say will lead to lower costs by better coordinating pharmacy and medical benefits. Wall Street analysts had expected antitrust approval as the companies have little overlap in their businesses. The decision bodes well for the pending U.S. antitrust review of CVS Health Corp.’s (CVS.N) proposed $69 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna Inc.
EU antitrust ruling on Microsoft buy of GitHub due by October 19. EU antitrust regulators will decide by Oct. 19 whether to clear U.S. software giant Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of privately held coding website GitHub. Microsoft, which wants to acquire the firm to reinforce its cloud computing business against rival Amazon, requested European Union approval for the deal last Friday, a filing on the European Commission website showed on Monday. The EU competition enforcer can either give the green light with or without demanding concessions, or it can open a full-scale investigation if it has serious concerns.