Is There an HSR Sea Change on the Horizon? Advance Notice Seeks Information on Possible Amendments to Numerous Provisions of the HSR Rules

At the same time as it issued its notice of proposed rulemaking expanding the definition of “person,” the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”) to request information related to seven topics “to help determine the path” for future amendments to the HSR Rules.  In explaining the reasons for the ANPRM, the FTC expressed its strong interest in making sure the Rules are “as current and relevant as possible,”  and observed that certain of the Rules, some of which have not been changed since they were first promulgated in 1978, may need updating.  The ANPRM contains more than forty pages of questions soliciting information to help determine the need for “potential future amendments to numerous provisions” of the Rules. Continue Reading

Tell Me More – Antitrust Agencies to Demand More Information from Investment Funds

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the premerger notification rules (the “Rules”) that implement the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (the “HSR Act”) to change the definition of “person” and create a new exemption.  The new definition of person is specifically designed to obtain more information from certain investment entities, such as investment funds and master limited partnerships, by including “associates” in the definition. Continue Reading

DOJ Antitrust Division Releases New Merger Remedies Manual

On September 3, 2020, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division released its Merger Remedies Manual.  The manual provides important guidance on what DOJ considers to be adequate solutions to addressing competitive issues in M&A deals challenged by DOJ.  Several key points are identified below. Continue Reading

The European Commission Adopts White Paper on Foreign Subsidies – A Trend Towards Protectionism on a Global Level?

As State aid measures granted by EU Member States continue to surge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak and ongoing pandemic, the European Commission (“Commission”) has turned to subsidies coming from non-EU countries.

On 17 June, the Commission announced that it had adopted a consultative White Paper which sets out proposed new legal tools to deal with the distortive effects caused by foreign subsidies in the European Single Market. With this, it opened a public consultation seeking input from stakeholders on the proposals set out in the White Paper. The public consultation will be open until 23 September 2020.

With the benefit of some distance since the issuance of this White Paper, we assess the proposal and the responses to it. Continue Reading

U.S. Courts Annual Review: Supreme Court

* Reprinted with permission from Global Competition Review. The full version of GCR’s US Courts Annual Review, published in July 2020, is available here.

The United States Supreme Court’s single antitrust case of the 2019 term, Apple, Inc v. Pepper upheld the long-standing and often criticized direct purchaser rule in the realm of sales through iPhone apps and other online sales platforms. The direct purchaser rule, established through the Supreme Court’s decisions in Hanover Shoe v. United Shoe Machinery Co and Illinois Brick Co v. Illinois limited standing to “the overcharged direct purchaser, and not others in the chain of manufacture or distribution.” In Apple v. Pepper, the Court grappled with these concepts in the virtual retail space where the class plaintiffs alleged that Apple’s 30 percent fee on sales of iPhone applications through its App Store represents a monopoly overcharge that should be recoverable by purchasers of the apps. The Court considered whether the developers of iPhone applications, rather than the consumers were more directly harmed by Apple’s alleged monopoly. Continue Reading

SEC and DOJ Adopt Memorandum of Understanding to Formalize Interagency Cooperation in the Securities Industry

On June 22, 2020, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, and Jay Clayton, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) concerning “Cooperation with Respect to Promoting Competitive Conditions in the Securities Industry.” Continue Reading

Maybe the FTC Can’t Take That to the Bank: The Supreme Court’s Decision in Liu v. SEC and Its Implications for the FTC’s Ability to Seek Equitable Monetary Relief

On July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court granted petitions for certiorari in FTC v. Credit Bureau Center and AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC, cases that question the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to demand equitable monetary relief such as restitution and disgorgement under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, which permits courts to issue “injunction[s]”  without express reference to equitable monetary relief. The Court’s decision in these cases will have sweeping ramifications for the FTC, which has referred to its efforts to obtain disgorgement under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act as “a cornerstone of the FTC’s enforcement program for more than 30 years.”[1] Continue Reading

High Risk of Second Requests in the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry faced heightened antitrust scrutiny from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2019.  There were public reports regarding several “Second Requests” seeking information about potential cannabis transactions.  Second Requests are a part of expensive and time-consuming antitrust investigations typically issued in the approximately 2 percent of transactions that present significant anticompetitive concerns.  To have several Second Requests within a short period of time in the same industry, particularly in an emerging industry such as cannabis, appeared unusual to many observers.  Recent events have shed light on some possible reasons for DOJ’s heightened focus. Continue Reading

Amnesty and Its Punishments: ACPERA and the Future of U.S. Antitrust Cartel Enforcement

There is a tension at the heart of modern U.S. cartel enforcement. On one hand is the engine that has been driving most criminal and civil cartel enforcement since the mid-1990s — the Department of Justice’s corporate leniency or “amnesty” program. The modern leniency program offers a relatively simple bargain to the first intrepid cartelist who walks through DOJ’s door: complete criminal amnesty in exchange for complete cooperation.  But, on the other hand, the simplicity of this bargain has historically been complicated by the significant countervailing likelihood of private “follow-on” lawsuits threatening some of the most severe penalties found anywhere in the U.S. legal system, including joint and several liability, treble damages, and the automatic recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs. By providing the government with the robust cooperation necessary to achieve criminal amnesty, a cartelist was also often ensuring private plaintiffs would have the evidence they needed to successfully obtain these civil penalties, which, at least for corporate defendants, can be more financially painful than anything the criminal process can provide. The result is that the cost-benefit analysis of invoking the DOJ’s amnesty program has not always been as straightforward as it appears or was likely intended. Continue Reading

DOJ and FTC Issue Joint Statement Regarding COVID-19 and Antitrust Violations

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently issued a joint statement (the “COVID-19 Statement”) regarding what constitutes lawful “procompetitive collaborations” between companies to address certain needs for consumers and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.  It also detailed what constitutes unlawful anticompetitive behavior related to essential and frontline workers and other vulnerable employees.  The DOJ and FTC used this opportunity to send a clear warning to companies who may seek to take advantage of the current pandemic by entering into agreements to restrain competition and employee mobility or lower wages.  Separately, for those companies who are actively working to assist essential workers, businesses and the country as a whole, the COVID-19 Statement provides guidance on engaging in lawful “procompetitive collaboration” to benefit essential workers and the economy amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Continue Reading

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