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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  February 8, 2021

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

U.S. antitrust agencies temporarily suspend practice of early terminations.  The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, which determine if mergers are legal, will temporarily suspend the practice of granting early terminations for mergers, the agency said Thursday. With the changeover to President Joe Biden’s administration and a jump in the number of merger filings, the FTC said the two antitrust regulators will review “processes and procedures” used to grant early termination. The agency said in a statement that it anticipated that the suspension would be “brief” and noted a similar suspension in March 2020.

Klobuchar unveils sweeping revamp of antitrust enforcement, laying out vision as new subcommittee chair.  Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., unveiled a sweeping antitrust reform bill on Thursday, setting a tough tone as she becomes chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. Klobuchar has been a frequent critic of what she and other lawmakers have viewed as lax enforcement of existing antitrust laws and has called for strong measures against some of the major tech firms. While she has introduced several bills in the past seeking reforms to various aspects of antitrust law, her Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act is a comprehensive proposal calling for a major revamping of policing standards.

Exxon, Chevron CEOs discussed merger in early 2020-sources.  The chief executives of ExxonMobil Corp and Chevron Corp held preliminary talks in early 2020 to explore combining the two largest U.S. oil producers in what would have been the biggest merger of all time, according to people familiar with the matter. The discussions, which are no longer active, are indicative of the pressure the energy sector’s most dominant companies faced as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and crude prices plunged. The talks between Exxon Chief Executive Darren Woods and Chevron CEO Mike Wirth were serious enough for legal documents involving certain aspects of the merger discussions to be drafted, one of the sources said. The reason the talks ended could not be learned.

EU to rule on Microsoft’s $7.5 billion ZeniMax deal by March 5.  EU antitrust regulators will decide by March 5 whether to clear Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the U.S. tech giant’s biggest gaming acquisition to better compete with Sony Corp’s PlayStation. Microsoft requested European Commission approval for the deal on Jan. 29, a filing on the EU executive’s website showed. The EU competition enforcer can clear the deal with or without concessions during its preliminary review or it can open a full-scale investigation if it has serious concerns. ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks, has developed hits including Fallout and Doom.

Edited by Gary J. Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,