April 27, 2015

Antitrust Week in Review

Comcast drops Time Warner Cable bid after antitrust pressure.  Comcast has abandoned its $45 billion offer for Time Warner Cable after U.S. regulators raised concerns that the deal would give Comcast an unfair advantage in the cable TV and Internet-based services market.  The proposed deal had been attacked by politicians, media company executives and consumer and industry groups, who worried it would create a monolith with too much control over what Americans do online and watch on TV.

In Accusing Russian Energy Giant Gazprom, E.U. Begins a Test of Wills.  European Union antitrust regulators have charged the Russian energy giant Gazprom with abusing its dominance in natural gas markets, a move amounting to a direct challenge to authorities in Moscow.  While the EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, described the matter in terms of business markets, Gazprom suggested that it was not subject to the EU’s antitrust jurisdiction because it is a state-controlled company.

EU antitrust case against Google based on 19 complainants-sources.   The European Union’s decision last week to bring antitrust charges against Google stems from official complaints by 19 companies in Europe and the United States, including Microsoft and a number of small firms, according to sources.  The list of complainants, which includes companies not directly involved in the charges around Google’s shopping service, would make it easier for the EU to expand the case beyond its preliminary focus on price-comparison shopping sites.  Being official parties to the case will enable the companies to get a copy of the detailed EU charge sheet and to argue their case at a hearing of competition experts should Google ask for one.

Oil exec Aubrey McClendon faces U.S. antitrust probe: filing.  Aubrey McClendon, the former CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for potential antitrust violations related to leasing oil and gas properties, according to a regulatory filing by American Energy Capital Partners-Energy Recovery Program LP, a new business venture he helps run.  Chesapeake has previously revealed it was cooperating with a government probe into possible antitrust violations.  The investigation has looked at whether buyers of oil and gas properties colluded to avoid bidding up land prices.

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Categories: Antitrust Litigation

    April 20, 2015

    The Antitrust Week In Review

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

    Europe Challenges Google, Seeing Violations of Its Antitrust Law.  The European Union has formally accused Google of abusing its dominance in web searches, bringing charges that could limit the giant American tech company’s moneymaking prowess.  These are the first antitrust charges asserted against Google after a years-long face-off between the company and European regulators.  The EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, also announced that the EU has opened a formal antitrust investigation into the company’s Android smartphone software.

    U.S. Antitrust Lawyers Said Leaning Against Comcast Deal.  Staff attorneys at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice are close to recommending litigation to block Comcast’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable, according to reportedly knowledgeable sources.  Government attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concern that consumers would be harmed, and could be days away from recommending to senior officials that the division file a federal lawsuit challenging the deal.

    Apple cooperation with antitrust monitor down ‘sharply’ – report.  Apple’s cooperation with a court-appointed monitor has “sharply declined” as he reviews the iPad maker’s antitrust compliance policies, the monitor has reported to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan.  Michael Bromwich, who became Apple’s monitor after it was found liable for conspiring to raise e-book prices, reported on Thursday that Apple objected to providing information and “inappropriately” attempted to limit his activities.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      April 13, 2015

      The Antitrust Week In Review

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

      Formal Charges May Be Next in Europe’s Google Antitrust Inquiry.  Although Europe’s antitrust investigation of Google has dragged on without a settlement for nearly five years, the internet giant’s breathing room may soon come to an end.  Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, will make her first trip to Washington on Wednesday to participate in two antitrust conferences. The visit has raised expectations that she may be on the verge of announcing some action against Google.

      U.S. announces first antitrust e-commerce prosecution.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division has announced its first prosecution specifically targeting Internet commerce, saying a man has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to illegally fix the prices of posters he sold online.  David Topkins was accused of conspiring with other poster sellers to manipulate prices on Amazon Marketplace, a website for third-party sellers.  Topkins was accused of violating the Sherman Act by conspiring with other poster sellers to use algorithms, for which he wrote computer code, to coordinate price changes.

      Shell-BG takeover to test China’s pledge on antitrust transparency.  Royal Dutch Shell’s $70 billion bid for BG Group will test a pledge by China’s antitrust regime to be more transparent, after it faced strong criticism last year from the United States and Europe.  China’s new competition law has been a wildcard for large international deals in recent years, particularly where natural resources are concerned.

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      Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        April 6, 2015

        The Antitrust Week In Review

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

        Antitrust and Other Inquiries in Europe Target U.S. Tech Giants.  European antitrust regulators are intensifying their scrutiny of giant American tech companies.  Not only is the European Union antitrust investigation into Google heating up, but additional European countries are looking into Facebook’s privacy settings, and Apple, which already is under scrutiny for its low corporate tax arrangements in Ireland, is now facing potential antitrust questions from the European Commission about the company’s upcoming music streaming service.

        StubHub is suing Ticketmaster over ticket cancellations.  StubHub, the largest ticket reseller in the U.S., filed an antitrust lawsuit against competitor Ticketmaster and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, claiming that they worked together to cancel tickets that were resold on StubHub.  StubHub, which is represented by Constantine Cannon, stated that it “seeks to stop unfair and illegal anti-competitive business practices that prevent fans from deciding how they want to resell their tickets and which artificially drive up ticket prices.”

        European Commission Asks Companies to Go Public With Google Complaints.  The European Commission has asked several companies to go public with confidential complaints they have made against Google, according to sources.  The companies that have filed submissions with the commission include Yelp and other major American technology companies, as well as leading German and French publishing groups that claim Google has too much control over how Europeans access information over the Internet.

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          April 2, 2015

          Congress Grapples With The Right Mix For Bipartisan Data Breach Bill

          By Leigh Orliner LaMartina

          Congress is actually making progress in advancing a bipartisan bill that seeks to stem the avalanche of data breaches that lately seem to threaten massive amounts of sensitive consumer financial information with alarming regularity.

          On March 25, 2015, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to approve the Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015 (the “Act”), which was authored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

          The proposed legislation would mandate that entities (1) maintain reasonable data security measures; and (2) notify consumers in a timely manner of data breaches that may leave them vulnerable to economic harm.  This standard would apply to entities that own or possess, or contract for third parties to maintain or process, data containing certain personal information. Notably, in early drafts, third party “Service Providers” were to be exempt from the draft’s security and notification requirements, required to notify only the “Covered Entity” whose data had been breached.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation

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