The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
CVS defends settlement that allowed Aetna merger as judge assesses. CVS Health Corp. defended on Friday an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department which allowed it to purchase health insurer Aetna for $69 billion, a settlement that a federal judge is still assessing. The Justice Department approved the merger of CVS, a U.S. pharmacy chain and benefits manager, and Aetna in October on condition that Aetna sell its Medicare prescription drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans Inc. (WCG.N). That sale was completed in November. Now, the Justice Department and companies have found themselves in the unusual position of defending their antitrust settlement to a skeptical federal judge. Most judges approve consent decrees aimed at resolving competition concerns with no fanfare, and deals normally close before the judge rules.
Evidence of Apple Switch Ruled Inadmissible in Qualcomm Antitrust Case. A federal judge on Thursday ruled that evidence provided by chip supplier Qualcomm Inc. that major phone makers like Apple Inc. have moved to competing suppliers like Intel Corp. cannot be used to fight allegations Qualcomm acted to preserve a monopoly on some mobile phone chips. The Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleges that Qualcomm’s patent licensing and chip sale practices were anticompetitive and sought to preserve a monopoly on so-called premium LTE modem chips, which help mobile phones connect to wireless data network.
Nexstar settles U.S. antitrust charges: Justice Department. The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it has settled antitrust charges with Nexstar Media Group Inc., which was accused of sharing sensitive information with rivals in the broadcast television industry. The information involved how stations were performing, which provides insight to rivals about whether they would raise, lower or maintain spot advertising prices, the agency said in a statement. The settlement, which must be approved by a court, bars direct and indirect sharing of such information and requires Nexstar to cooperate in the ongoing investigation, the statement said.
Rep. Goodlatte Presses Administration to Support Anti-OPEC Legislation. Bob Goodlatte, outgoing chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, pressed the Justice Department’s Makan Delrahim on Wednesday to support legislation that would make it easier for the U.S. government to sue to stop OPEC members from pushing up oil prices. Goodlatte, a Republican, noted that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed this month to cut production to push up oil prices, something that would normally violate U.S. law. “The fact that OPEC is not being held accountable for its anticompetitive behavior makes a mockery of U.S. antitrust law,” said Goodlatte, who asked Delrahim if the administration would support the bill, called the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2018.