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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  April 27, 2020

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

Key U.S. lawmaker pushes for a ban on mergers until coronavirus pandemic ends.  The chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel on Thursday called for a moratorium on mergers in the next coronavirus stimulus package and a ban on deals that are not directly related to companies about to fail. Democratic U.S. Representative David Cicilline’s proposal attempts to ensure that large companies do not wipe out competition from smaller rivals already hit hard by the pandemic. Mega-mergers and corporate takeovers that were permitted during the last economic crisis led to the firing of millions of workers, the slowing of investment and innovation, and huge increases in executive compensation, Cicilline said during an event hosted by the Open Markets Institute, a Washington-based antitrust advocacy group. “We must take immediate action to halt this trend by including a moratorium in the upcoming stimulus package on all transactions that do not involve firms that are truly failing or in bankruptcy,” Cicilline said.

Lawsuit claims 10 big banks rigged market for ‘odd-lot’ U.S. corporate bonds.  Ten of the world’s largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, have been sued for allegedly conspiring over nearly 14 years to rig prices in the $9.6 trillion U.S. corporate bond market, costing ordinary investors billions of dollars. The proposed class action filed on Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan said the banks have since August 2006 violated antitrust law by overcharging investors on “odd-lot” trades, which are worth less than $1 million and comprise 90% of all corporate bond trading. Other defendants include Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland and Wells Fargo & Co, or their respective affiliates. According to the 81-page complaint, the banks leveraged their power from handling more than two-thirds of U.S. corporate bond underwriting to quietly inflate spreads between the prices where they would buy and sell odd-lot bonds.

Ryanair must be clearer about full ticket price – EU court.  Ryanair must indicate the full price of the ticket when it displays offers on its website, the EU’s top court said on Thursday. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) made its ruling after the Italian antitrust authority (AGCM) criticized Ryanair in 2011 for prices that did not include value-added tax on domestic flights and fees for check-in and payments by credit card. The AGCM argued these were unavoidable and should be indicated before a customer began the booking process. Ryanair took the matter to court, prompting Italy’s Council of State to ask the CJEU whether the price elements needed to be included. The judges in Luxembourg said Ryanair had to show in its initial offer unavoidable and foreseeable taxes, surcharges and fees.

Japan’s antitrust watchdog urges banks to reconsider interbank transfer fees.  Japan’s Fair Trade Commission said on Tuesday domestic banks need to reconsider interbank transfer fees which are far higher than costs, adding the fees have not been changed for more than 40 years. “The level of interbank transfer fees has been maintained and this current situation should be redressed,” the antitrust watchdog said in a statement.

Edited by Gary Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues,