June 15, 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.

Apple Music and Labels Investigated in 2 States.  The attorneys general of New York and Connecticut have been investigating Apple’s negotiations with music companies for possible antitrust violations.  The attorneys general wanted to know whether Apple pressured the music labels — or whether the labels conspired with Apple and one another — to withdraw support for popular “freemium” services offered by companies like Spotify in favor of Apple’s paid music subscriptions.

Amazon’s E-Books Business Investigated by European Antitrust Regulators.  European Union antitrust regulators are investigating whether Amazon used its dominant position in the region’s e-books market to favor its own products over rivals.  The European Commission is evaluating the legality of clauses that Amazon used with European publishers, which required them to inform the e-commerce giant when they offered more favorable terms for books to other digital retailers.

U.S. Antitrust Reviews of Mergers Get Longer.  While mergers and acquisitions have accelerated sharply since the financial crisis faded, the U.S. government has slowed its pace of reviewing proposed deals.  Deal reviews conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission this year have averaged more than 10 months, an increase from an average of seven months in recent years.

Gazprom has until mid-Sept to reply to EU antitrust charges.  Russian energy company Gazprom has been given until mid-September to respond to European Union antitrust charges of over-charging for gas in eastern and central Europe, and blocking competitors from entering the market.  Although the European Commission gave Gazprom 12 weeks to reply when it revealed the charges on April 22, companies typically ask for more time to marshal their legal and economic arguments when faced with complex issues.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    June 8, 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 Scrutiny for 3 Big U.S. Theater Chains.  A federal investigation into whether the big movie theater chains are misusing their market clout to keep new films away from independent competitors is gaining steam.  Cinemark Holdings, the nation’s third-largest movie theater operator, disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had received a civil investigative demand for information from the antitrust division of the Justice Department.  Cinemark’s two bigger competitors, Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment, have already alerted shareholders to similar requests.

    Privacy app maker files EU antitrust complaint against Google.  U.S. tech firm Disconnect has filed a complaint with EU antitrust regulators against Google’s ban on its privacy app, accusing the Silicon Valley giant of abusing its dominant market position.  Disconnect, which was set up four years ago by former Google engineers, says its app protects users of the Android operating system from invisible tracking and malware distributed through advertisements.  Disconnect claims that Google abused its position by blocking the app from the Google Play store last year, and gained an unfair advantage over competitors by integrating its own privacy and security services into its own products.

    Motorola’s Antitrust Lawsuit May Head to Top Court.  The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce  later this month whether it will review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit tossing out a civil antitrust suit by Motorola Mobility seeking damages from AU Optronics and other members of an alleged price-fixing cartel.  The appeals court held that Motorola’s overseas subsidiaries could not reap the benefits of America’s antitrust laws.  The decision, authored by prominent legal theorist Judge Richard A. Posner, has engendered a lively debate by antitrust scholars over the global reach of America’s antitrust laws.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      May 26, 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.

      Charter Said to Be Near Deal to Buy Time Warner Cable.  Following on the heels of Comcast’s failed bid to buy Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications has struck a deal to buy Time Warner, an acquisition that would create a powerhouse in the consolidating American cable and broadband industry.  Reportedly, Charter plans to announce today a $55 billion deal for its larger rival and an approximately $10 billion takeover of a smaller competitor, Bright House Networks.  Charter is still likely to face close scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, though some analysts have expressed the view that this deal is unlikely to face the same level of opposition as the Comcast bid for Time Warner.

      Guilty Pleas and Heavy Fines Seem to Be Cost of Business for Wall St.   Even as five big banks plead guilty to felonies and paying out billions of dollars, the question remains whether top executives will shrug off the penalties as just a cost of doing business.  The U.S. Department of Justice hailed the guilty pleas by JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays, UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland to foreign exchange and Libor manipulation charges as a victory for discouraging corporate misconduct.  Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said that the penalty of more than $5 billion that the banks agreed to pay, including $2.5 billion in criminal fines, “should deter competitors in the future from chasing profits without regard to fairness, to the law, or to the public welfare.”  However, whether traders will be dissuaded from seeking out ways to gain any edge possible in financial dealings is an open question.

      As antitrust case looms, ‘Peak Google’ debated.  As Google faces an investigation by European antitrust regulators, some analysts are questioning whether the California tech giant’s dominance has already peaked.  While Google remains one of the world’s biggest companies with overwhelming dominance in Internet searches, its prospects are less rosy in a tech landscape rapidly shifting to mobile devices and social media, according to some industry analysts.

      Reynolds Said Set to Win Antitrust Clearance for Lorillard.  Reynolds American is reportedly on the verge of winning U.S. antitrust approval for its $25 billion purchase of its competitor Lorillard.  Reynolds, the maker of Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes, is seeking approval from the Federal Trade Commission to buy its tobacco rival.  To ensure the industry remains competitive, the company has offered to sell its Blu e-cigarettes and menthol brands, including Kool, to Imperial Tobacco Group.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

        May 18, 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.

        5 Big Banks Expected to Plead Guilty to Felony Charges, but Punishments May Be Tempered.  The U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to announce that Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and the Royal Bank of Scotland will collectively pay several billion dollars and plead guilty to criminal antitrust violations for rigging the price of foreign currencies, according to sources.  Reportedly, the Justice Department is also preparing to resolve accusations of foreign currency misconduct at UBS.

        Sports broadcast antitrust case may proceed as class action.  A federal judge ruled that television viewers may pursue a class-action lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Comcast Corp, DirecTV and other broadcasters of illegally restraining their ability to watch their favorite sports teams play.  U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said the viewers suffered from “a dearth of choice in the market for baseball and hockey broadcasting,” and that it made sense for them to pursue their claims as a group.  The court also found, however, that damages could not be pursued on a classwide basis.

        Sysco may face about $1 billion in costs if US Foods merger dies.  Sysco Corp. will be left with a bill of around $1 billion if the Federal Trade Commission kills its $3.5 billion merger with US Foods, regulatory filings show, underscoring the perils of doing deals that have a good chance of being blocked by antitrust regulators.  According to a Reuters analysis of Sysco’s filings, the mammoth U.S. food distributor has spent more than $400 million so far on a combination of integration planning, financing charges and on defending the transaction in court.

        EU Regulators to Decide on GE, Alstom Deal by August 21.  European Union antitrust regulators have resumed their investigation into General Electric’s 12.4-billion-euro bid for Alstom’s energy unit after receiving requested data from the U.S. conglomerate.  According to the European Commission, it will decide by Aug. 21, 2015, whether to clear the deal, General Electric’s biggest acquisition.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          May 11, 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.

          E.U. Commission Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into E-Commerce Sector.  European antitrust officials have opened an investigation into whether large technology companies are impeding competition in online shopping, the latest in a string of inquiries in Europe focused on the web’s biggest players.  According to Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s antitrust chief, the review will focus on how electronics, clothing, shoes and online content are bought and sold online, and whether e-commerce companies have created artificial barriers that prevent Europeans from buying goods across national borders.

          Top California court revives Cipro antitrust case.  The California Supreme Court has revived an antitrust class action accusing a drugmaker of paying to keep a generic version of Bayer AG’s antibiotic Cipro off the market.  The unanimous opinion marks the first time an appellate court has tackled so-called “pay for delay” deals since a landmark 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court held that such deals may be illegal.  The plaintiffs in the antitrust class action – a group of non-profits and individuals in California who bought Cipro – claim that Bayer (which settled the claims in 2013) violated California antitrust law by paying Barr Pharmaceuticals, (since bought by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries) $398 million to refrain from marketing a generic version of Cipro until Bayer’s patent on the drug expired.

          Sysco Urges Judge to Save US Foods Deal in Antitrust Duel.  Sysco Corp.’s takeover of US Foods Inc. would create an industry “behemoth” in food distribution, eliminating intense head-to-head competition between the companies, a U.S. lawyer argued at the start of a courtroom battle over the merger.  The FTC is asking a federal judge to block the $3.5 billion deal, arguing the merger would give Sysco a dominant share in an industry where it’s the biggest player, and lead to higher prices for restaurants, hotels, school cafeterias and other customers.

          SandRidge is target of antitrust grand jury probe: filing.    SandRidge Energy is the target of a federal grand jury investigation into violations of antitrust law related to the leasing of oil and gas properties, according to a regulatory filing by the company.  The Oklahoma-based company said in an SEC filing that the transactions subject to the government’s inquiry date from 2012 and prior years.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Uncategorized

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