The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Trump’s impeachable antitrust power grab. In a Washington Post opinion piece, Constantine Cannon’s Harry Litman comments on a report by The New Yorker of President Trump’s role in the government’s suit to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger. As Litman notes, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer has reported that President Trump ordered aides to sue to block the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger in summer 2017 out of personal animus toward CNN. Litman writes that if the New Yorker report is accurate, the president’s conduct constituted a flagrant violation of the First Amendment.
Democrats probe whether White House interfered in AT&T Time Warner merger. Two U.S. House Democrats on Thursday asked the White House and Justice Department to turn over documents that could show whether Republican President Donald Trump sought to intervene in the regulatory review of AT&T Inc’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. In letters released on Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Representative David Cicilline, who chairs a panel overseeing antitrust issues, asked them to turn over records after The New Yorker magazine reported this week that Trump directed then-National Economic Council director Gary Cohn to use the Justice Department to block the deal. The pair wrote that if accurate, Trump’s involvement would “constitute a grave abuse of power.”
NCAA Can Claim Victory After Losing Federal Antitrust Case. The NCAA was able to claim victory Friday night after a judge ruled against the governing body for college sports in a federal antitrust lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, said college football and men’s and women’s basketball players competing at the NCAA’s highest level should be permitted to receive compensation from schools beyond the current athletic scholarship, but only if the benefits are tied to education. The NCAA cannot “limit compensation or benefits related to education,” Wilken wrote. That opens the door to athletes receiving more scholarship money to pursue postgraduate degrees, finish undergraduate degrees or study abroad. However, the plaintiffs in the so-called Alston cases were seeking much more.
Qualcomm launches patent challenge to Apple ahead of antitrust case. Qualcomm Inc has kicked off a patent challenge to Apple Inc, capping off a two-year legal strategy to put pressure on the iPhone maker before a major antitrust lawsuit between the two goes to trial in April. Qualcomm, the world’s biggest maker of mobile chips, alleges in federal court in San Diego that Apple violated three of its patents, and is asking for tens of millions of dollars or more in damages. The patent case is part of a two-year series of lawsuits around the world between the companies. Apple has alleged that Qualcomm engaged in illegal patent practices to protect a dominant position in the chip market, and Qualcomm has accused Apple of using its technology without compensation.
EU antitrust boss studying car repairs market but no investigation. European Union regulators are studying how the car repairs market works following demands from customers for more competition, but have not opened a case, the bloc’s antitrust chief said. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters interest was triggered by car owners who want more competition and the opportunity to be able to use other repairers or garages than those certified for their cars. “It is not an investigation, it is not a case but it is sort of part of our market supervision also in this area. We want to get a sense of this market again because this is very much about data. You can access the data to service the car,” she said.