The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
EU’s Vestager says not precluding Facebook case in future. Facebook is not currently in EU regulators’ crosshairs but it may well be in future because of the crucial role played by data, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Tuesday. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s comments came two weeks after the German cartel office ruled that the world’s largest social network abused its market dominance to gather information about users without their consent. Vestager said she has no case against Facebook regarding its market power for now but nevertheless was monitoring the market.
Philadelphia sues seven big banks, alleges municipal bond collusion. The city of Philadelphia has filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing seven major banks of conspiring to inflate interest rates for a type of bond used by cities, towns and other public entities, costing them potentially billions of dollars. In a complaint filed on Wednesday night, Philadelphia accused Bank of America Corp., Barclays Plc, Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo & Co. of secretly manipulating rates for tax-exempt bonds known as VRDOs, or variable-rate demand obligations. Philadelphia, which said it issued more than $1.6 billion of the bonds, said the banks colluded to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in fees they did not earn, reducing critical funding for public services such as hospitals, power and water supplies, schools and transportation.
U.S. closes IV solution shortage antitrust probe, Baxter says. Baxter International Inc. said the U.S. Justice Department has closed an antitrust probe examining possible communication among producers of intravenous saline solutions during supply shortages that created higher prices. Baxter, which received a grand jury subpoena in 2017 as part of the investigation, said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that the department informed it on Nov. 30 of its decision to end the probe. Other companies that in April 2017 disclosed receiving subpoenas as part of the investigation included Pfizer Inc. and ICU Medical Inc., which earlier that year had acquired Pfizer’s global infusion therapy business. Those companies have said the New York attorney general has also sought records regarding business practices in the IV saline industry.
France, Germany seek veto for EU governments on antitrust cases. France and Germany on Tuesday proposed to give the European Council, the forum representing European Union governments, the right to override some antitrust decisions by the European Commission in certain “well-defined cases.” Berlin and Paris want to overhaul EU mergers rules following the European Commission’s veto of efforts by Siemens and Alstom to create a European rail champion to compete with larger foreign rivals.