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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  June 6, 2022

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

EU acted like a fishing trawler in antitrust data searches, Meta lawyer says.

Meta Platforms Inc. compared searches by EU antitrust regulators to a fishing super trawler as watchdogs investigate the owner of Facebook’s data and online marketplace. Meta says it has already handed over more than a million documents to the European Commission since its first request in 2019 regarding its Facebook Marketplace, social networking and online classified ads. The company has, however, questioned the necessity and proportionality of the data requests and the reasons provided by the watchdog. It has also criticized the agency’s use of 2,500 search phrases – including “big question”, “for free” and “not good for us” – to trawl the company’s documents.

U.S. sheep herders sue employers for cartel-like wage suppression.  Sheep herders in the U.S. West have banded together to sue their employers, accusing them of operating an illegal cartel that artificially suppresses their wages, according to court documents filed in Nevada. The case could have implications for how antitrust laws are applied to labor markets, according to legal experts, as the Biden administration pushes for greater competition in every sector of the economy. The suit alleges that ranches coordinate through the Western Range Association (WRA), a ranching trade group, to suppress sheepherder wages and avoid competing for labor. Herders apply to jobs through the WRA which then assigns them to ranches, leaving no room for the herders to negotiate or shop around among ranches, the complaint said.

UK starts investigating BT and Discovery sport tie-up.  Britain’s competition watchdog said it had started investigating BT Group’s (BT.L) deal to combine its sports broadcasting business with Warner Bros Discovery. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had until July 28 to make its phase 1 decision on whether the joint venture between the country’s biggest broadband and mobile provider and the U.S. company will reduce competition in the UK. “The CMA routinely looks at any proposed joint venture of this sort, so this is a normal part of the process,” a BT spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Musk deal for Twitter dodges lengthy U.S. antitrust review.  Twitter Inc. said on Friday that the U.S. antitrust waiting period for Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of the social media giant had expired, indicating it had dodged a lengthy review of the proposed deal. With the expiration, completion of the deal is now subject to remaining customary closing conditions, including approval by Twitter stockholders and any other regulatory approvals, Twitter said. Under antitrust law, deals are reported to the U.S. government for review by either the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission. If either agency had filed a “second request” for documents, the deal would have faced an investigation that could have lasted months.