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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  January 11, 2023

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


U.S. Moves to Bar Noncompete Agreements in Labor Contracts.  In a far-reaching move that could raise wages and increase competition among businesses, the Federal Trade Commission unveiled a rule that would block companies from limiting their employees’ ability to work for a rival. The proposed rule would ban provisions of labor contracts known as noncompete agreements, which prevent workers from leaving for a competitor or starting a competing business for months or years after their employment, often within a certain geographic area. The agreements have applied to workers as varied as sandwich makers, hairstylists, doctors and software engineers.


Meta’s Ad Practices Ruled Illegal Under E.U. Law.  Meta suffered a major defeat that could severely undercut its Facebook and Instagram advertising business after European Union regulators found it had illegally forced users to effectively accept personalized ads. The decision, including a fine of 390 million euros ($414 million), has the potential to require Meta to make costly changes to its advertising-based business in the European Union, one of its largest markets. The ruling is one of the most consequential judgments since the 27-nation bloc, home to roughly 450 million people, enacted a landmark data-privacy law aimed at restricting the ability of Facebook and other companies from collecting information about users without their prior consent. The law took effect in 2018.


U.S. judge scraps CSX jury trial in rail antitrust case.  A U.S. judge blocked freight carrier CSX Transportation Inc from pursuing federal antitrust claims alleging a top rail industry rival has cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in lost customer contracts. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Davis of the Eastern District of Virginia federal court largely ruled for CSX rival Norfolk Southern Railway Co in a 104-page decision that closely examined competition for on-dock rail access at Norfolk International Terminals, the Virginia Port Authority’s largest shipping dock. The judge canceled a jury trial scheduled for Jan. 18 and converted it instead to a bench trial on whether CSX is entitled to an injunction on a matter involving another defendant, the Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad Co, a joint venture formed in the late 19th Century by a collection of railroads.


No ‘substantive’ settlement talks between U.S. FTC, Microsoft over Activision -lawyer.  There are no “substantive” settlement discussions under way between the Biden administration and Microsoft Corp to resolve a legal dispute over the Xbox maker’s $69 billion bid for games maker Activision Blizzard Inc, a Federal Trade Commission attorney said. The FTC, which enforces antitrust law, asked a judge to block the transaction in early December, arguing it would give Microsoft’s Xbox exclusive access to Activision games, leaving Nintendo consoles and Sony Group Corp’s PlayStation out in the cold. FTC attorney James Weingarten, speaking in a brief telephonic pretrial hearing, said there were no “substantive” settlement discussions between the two sides under way.


Edited by Gary J. Malone