The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Judge Blocks a Merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. A federal judge blocked a bid by Penguin Random House, the biggest book publisher in the United States, to buy one of its main rivals, Simon & Schuster, in a significant victory for the Biden administration, which is trying to expand the boundaries of antitrust enforcement. The judge, Florence Y. Pan, who heard the case in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, said in an order that the Justice Department had demonstrated that the merger might “substantially” harm competition in the market for U.S. publishing rights to anticipated top-selling books. The full order laying out Judge Pan’s reasoning is temporarily under seal because it contains confidential information, and will be released later after both parties file redactions.
Meta loses bid, for now, to depose FTC over agency’s challenge to Within deal. A California federal judge spurned a bid by Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc to depose U.S. Federal Trade Commission officials over the agency’s lawsuit seeking to block the social media company from buying virtual reality content maker Within Unlimited Inc. In a court ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen said the FTC already had provided enough information to Meta as it builds its defense against the federal agency’s antitrust lawsuit. The FTC sued Meta in July, claiming its acquisition of Within would reduce competition in the market for virtual reality fitness apps. Meta has denied the claims and called the case “ill-conceived.”
Agency powers under threat in U.S. Supreme Court FTC and SEC cases. Two cases that give the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority another opportunity to restrain the power of federal agencies go before the justices in disputes involving the Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission. The court has scheduled arguments on the cases, which represent the latest battles in what is sometimes called the legal “war on the administrative state” pursued by plaintiffs who accuse agencies of taking actions either not authorized by Congress or by the U.S. Constitution.
Carney defends dropping U.N. climate initiative over antitrust concerns. Mark Carney, co-chair of a group of financial firms that has pledged to tackle climate change, told Reuters its members were allowed to drop out of a United Nations initiative that mandates the phasing out of fossil fuels because of antitrust concerns. Carney’s Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), whose members include more than 550 financial firms with a combined $150 trillion of assets, said last week it would no longer require adherence to Race to Zero, a U.N. initiative which requires signatories to phase out fossil fuels. Carney, who is also a U.N. special climate envoy, said GFANZ members raised concerns about legal liabilities, particularly around antitrust law, if his coalition continued to require adherence to Race to Zero.
Edited by Gary J. Malone