The center of gravity when it comes to private litigation of international antitrust disputes is still in the United States, but two trends affecting the legal landscape in the U.S., U.K., and EU are shifting it across the Atlantic. In this article originally published in Competition – The Journal of the Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law Section of the State Bar of California (Vol. 25, No. 2, Fall 2016), we address these trends and further discuss their implications for lawyers handling major antitrust disputes that have global footprints. Much of the discussion will focus on cartel litigation because those cases often involve global issues and present the most obvious examples for our discussion.
By the votes of a nation’s electors, the future of U.S. antitrust enforcement moved from “pragmatic aggressive enforcement as usual” to “too early to call.” The unexpected election of President-elect Donald J. Trump opened wide the speculation or mystery of what he and his advisors are planning as his administration’s antitrust policy. Given the paucity of his statements on antitrust policy, and the random nature of his few comments, we must dig deeply to formulate the outline of his enforcement plans or speculate about practices and policies in the spirit of the campaign’s “America First” rhetoric.
The U.S. Antitrust Agencies (the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission) recently issued a document entitled “Antitrust Guidance For Human Resource Professionals” intended to alert HR professionals to potential antitrust violations involving hiring and compensation decisions.
The Guidance states that firms that compete to hire or retain employees are competitors in the “employment marketplace,” regardless of whether they make the same products or compete to provide the same services. It advises that it is unlawful for competitors to expressly or implicitly agree not to compete and notes that the Antitrust Agencies have taken enforcement actions against employers that have agreed not to compete for employees. To underscore this, the Guidance briefly discusses the enforcement actions that the Antitrust Agencies have taken against entities for agreeing not to compete for employees or agreeing to uniform compensation terms, including actions against high profile technology companies.
Invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union requires participation of the UK Parliament say Lord Chief Justices Lord Sales and Lord Thomas of the Royal Courts of Justice in London who handed down their judgment today.
This is a significant step, but only a step along the way. The final outcome remains uncertain as this judgment will most likely be appealed by the Government to the Supreme Court. Hence, the uncertainty caused by Brexit to businesses remains if it is not further increased.
On Oct. 25, 2016, the European Commission released a “Study on the Passing-on of Overcharges” after a year-long evaluation and input process. The study will help judges, regulators and practitioners critically evaluate pass-on claims in European competition cases through both legal and economic lenses. The detailed 315-page report highlights the increasingly important role of pass-on in the EU, and compares EU law concerning pass-on with other jurisdictions, including the United States. This article gives an overview of the study’s results and predicts the effects of increasing pass-on litigation in the EU.
These are the words of Europe’s chief antitrust enforcer, Margrethe Vestager, introducing the Commission’s public hearing on October 6, 2016, on its preliminary findings of the e-commerce sector inquiry. The promise of e-commerce alluded to by the Commissioner for Competition means quite simply a wider choice of goods available for purchase online, at lower prices across the EU as well as cross-border access to digital content for consumers in the EU. The major concern for the Commission is that e-commerce still takes place nationally within the EU and not on a cross-border basis across the 28 Member States, because of contractual barriers erected by companies.
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition has issued a lengthy preliminary report of its ongoing sector inquiry into the e-commerce of goods and digital content. The sector-wide inquiry was launched on May 6, 2015, in the context of a wider legislative initiative by the Commission implementing its Digital Single Market strategy. The ongoing inquiry and impending future enforcement actions will have major implications on the law and enforcement of product distribution in Europe, both online and offline.
Woodman’s Food Market, Inc. v. Clorox Co., No. 15-3001 (7th Cir. August 12, 2016).
Clorox Sales Company and Clorox Company produce a range of consumer goods. Clorox sold goods to Plaintiff Woodman’s Food Market, a local grocery store with locations in Wisconsin and Illinois. Clorox also sold to discount warehouses such as Costco and Sam’s Club. In 2014, Clorox unilaterally announced that it would sell its large packs only to wholesale discount clubs. Thus, the large bulk-size packs, which had previously been sold to Woodman’s were no longer available to it by direct purchase from Clorox.
In what will undoubtedly be seen by all interested parties as a significant setback in the Federal Trade Commission’s active opposition to potentially anticompetitive healthcare collaborations, the FTC voted unanimously on Wednesday to dismiss its challenge to Cabell Huntington Hospital’s acquisition of St. Mary’s Medical Center – two hospitals serving patients in the Huntington area of West Virginia. While the FTC continues to believe that the merger will result in significant anticompetitive harm, it chose to abandon the fight in light of the recent passage of West Virginia Senate Bill 597 (SB 597).
For parties considering a merger or other transaction, the civil penalties for failing to comply with the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (“HSR Act”) are about to increase significantly.
On June 29, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission announced that the maximum civil penalty for noncompliance with the premerger filing requirements of the HSR Act will increase from $16,000 per day to $40,000 per day, effective August 1, 2016. The current maximum penalty of $16,000 per day has been in place since 2009. Prior to 2009, the maximum penalty was $11,000 per day.