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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  July 27, 2023

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


Biden’s Antitrust Team Isn’t Backing Down From a Fight on Deals.  The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission announced their long-awaited merger guidelines, and the proposed regulatory framework reveals that the regulators aren’t changing their aggressive approach despite losing a series of court cases when they tried to block transactions. Regulators under administrations dating to President Lyndon Johnson have set out new guidelines, which serve largely as a matter of policy intent because they are not enforced by law. But the sweeping proposals introduced by Lina Khan, the F.T.C. chair, and Jonathan Kanter, the Justice Department’s top antitrust official, have one key distinguishing feature: a road map for judges to understand the regulators’ more progressive views on trustbusting via footnotes about case law — an apparent rebuttal to those who say that the tougher approach is not grounded in U.S. rules.


US FTC official withdraws case against Microsoft-Activision deal before internal agency judge.  A U.S. Federal Trade Commission official withdrew the agency’s case before an in-house judge that sought to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of game-maker Activision. The agency has been pursuing a two-pronged attack against the proposed transaction. One was in district court, which refused to slap a preliminary injunction on the proposed transaction. An appeals court also turned down a request for the deal to be paused.


Biden creates new competition role on National Economic Council.  President Joe Biden has created a new role on the National Economic Council (NEC) to tackle anticompetitive business practices, naming NEC member Hannah Garden-Monheit as Director of Competition Council Policy, the White House said. Garden-Monheit, a former U.S. trial attorney with experience in the private sector, told Reuters she would forge ahead with Biden’s executive order on competition and work with the council’s 18 members on new initiatives. Biden created the council as part of an executive order two years ago to crack down on anticompetitive practices in sectors from agriculture to drugs and labor, and find ways to lower prices for consumers.


Microsoft and Activision Delay Deal to Settle British Regulatory Issues.  Microsoft and Activision Blizzard said that they were delaying a $69 billion merger as the two companies scrambled to get final approval from British antitrust regulators. The new extension, set for Oct. 18, signals that the companies believe they will complete the deal but need more time to satisfy regulators’ concerns. When Microsoft announced its plans to acquire Activision, a video game publisher, in early 2022, the two companies set a deadline of July 18 this year to close the deal.


Edited by Gary J. Malone