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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  March 8, 2021

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

Biden adds Big Tech critic Tim Wu to his economic staff.  President Joe Biden on Friday rounded out his White House staff with a top adviser who has advocated for breaking up Big Tech companies along with a host of new appointments focused on COVID-19, criminal justice and the U.S. economy. The White House announced six additional staffers to its National Economic Council, including Columbia University professor Tim Wu, who coined the term “net neutrality” and has warned against an economy dominated by a few giant firms. Wu in 2018 authored a book called “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age” in which he wrote about the inequalities created by extreme economic concentration. The White House said Wu would help advance Biden’s agenda including addressing monopolies and issues of market power.

Exclusive: An ‘industry custom’ – Little-known fees help Japan trust banks dominate profitable niche market.  When Japan’s Honda Motor Co Ltd stopped using Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd as its stock transfer agent last year, the lender slapped it with a roughly $4 million termination fee, according to two people familiar with the matter. The break fee – 2,000 yen ($19) per shareholder – is a little-known practice among Japan’s biggest trust banks when they lose a client in the shareholder record-keeping business, multiple insiders say. Some executives at listed companies privately express frustration over the practice, which they say illustrates banks’ abuse of their considerable power in corporate Japan. “It’s not right to charge 2,000 yen for doing nothing. Any way you look at it, it’s a barrier to entry and in violation of anti-trust laws,” said one executive at a major manufacturer.

EU investigating Teva for blocking rivals to multiple sclerosis drug.  Israeli drugmaker Teva is being investigated by EU antitrust regulators who are looking into whether it illegally hindered rivals’ access to its multiple sclerosis medicine Copaxone. The European Commission, which carried out unannounced inspections of Teva in 2019 and 2020, said the probe will look into whether Teva has abused its dominant market position in breach of EU antitrust rules, which could lead to hefty fines. It said Teva may have artificially extended the market exclusivity of Copaxone by strategically filing and withdrawing patents after the 2015 expiry of a basic patent covering ingredient glatiramer acetate which is used in the drug. This repeatedly blocked the entry of its generic competitor who was obliged to file a new legal challenge each time.

Edited by Gary J. Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,