The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
The F.T.C. votes to use its leverage to make it easier for consumers to repair their phones. The Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to push harder for the right of consumers to repair devices like smartphones, home appliances, cars and even farm equipment, arguing that large corporations have cost consumers by making such products harder to fix. All five commissioners — two Republicans and three Democrats — voted to back a policy statement that promises to explore whether companies that make it harder for consumers to repair products are breaking antitrust or consumer protection laws, and to step up enforcement of the laws against violators. “These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs and undermine resiliency,” said Lina Khan, the commission’s chairwoman.
Senator Warren questions Lockheed’s antitrust solution to buy Aerojet. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a tougher look at defense industry mergers, questioning a proposal from Lockheed Martin that would allow it to buy the biggest independent maker of rocket motors, Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings. The Democratic senator, who has a keen interest in corporate behavior, asked the FTC to examine the premise and efficacy of internal firewalls like those Lockheed proposes to prevent it from gaining a competitive advantage over peers once the deal closes, according to a July 16 letter seen by Reuters. Lockheed Martin announced a $4.4 billion agreement to buy Aerojet late last year, a deal that has raised eyebrows because it would give Lockheed – the No. 1 defense contractor – ownership of a vital piece of the U.S. missile industry whose motors are used in everything from the homeland missile shield to Stinger missiles.
FIFA, U.S. Soccer win dismissal of promoter’s antitrust lawsuit in New York. A U.S. judge on Tuesday dismissed a sports promotion company’s antitrust lawsuit accusing soccer’s world governing body FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation of blocking foreign clubs and leagues from staging competitive matches in the United States. U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan said Relevent Sports LLC failed to show an illegal conspiracy to restrict where teams play, despite a 2018 FIFA policy against official matches outside teams’ home territories. Caproni said that even absent a formal “meeting of the minds” there were “obvious rational reasons” for U.S. Soccer to honor the ban, including the prospect that FIFA might otherwise exclude U.S. men’s soccer players and teams from the World Cup.
Aon, Willis halt $30 bln merger over monopoly concerns, delay. Aon Plc and Willis Towers Watson Plc on Monday called off a $30 billion merger that would have created the world’s largest insurance broker, saying U.S. regulators’ objections created unacceptable delay and uncertainty. The decision, hailed by some as an early victory for the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, which sued last month to block it, stood at odds with European regulators who recently approved the deal on condition the companies sell assets. “Despite regulatory momentum around the world … we reached an impasse with the U.S. Department of Justice,” Aon Chief Executive Greg Case said in a statement. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the termination “a victory” because employers “rely on insurance brokers like Aon and Willis Towers Watson for managing the complexities of these health and retirement benefits,” he said.
Edited by Gary J. Malone