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Ann O'Brien is a partner and co-leader of the firm's Antitrust and Competition Practice Group. She also leads the firm’s Criminal Antitrust and Cartels team. Ann is based in the firm's Washington, D.C. office.

The health care industry has been a particular focus of antitrust concern in recent years, including recent policy initiatives, private equity warnings, and enforcement actions from both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The new Task Force on Health Care Monopolies and Collusion (HCMC), announced this month by the DOJ, is the latest example of antitrust scrutiny on the industry.Continue Reading New DOJ Health Care Task Force Portends Continued Aggressive Antitrust Enforcement

On April 23, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) voted 3-2 to issue its final rule (“Final Rule”) banning employers from imposing noncompete clauses on their workers, approving the final rule in a special Open Commission Meeting. Continue Reading FTC Votes to Ban Noncompete Agreements

In 2019, the Department of Justice created the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF or Strike Force), a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact government procurement, grant, and program funding at all levels of government—federal, state and local. The PCSF is a constellation of partnerships among the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, multiple U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Inspectors General for multiple federal agencies working together to crack down on unlawful anticompetitive activities in the public procurement process. As we have previously discussed,[i] the PCSF has been steadily growing its footprint and focus since its inception in November 2019. Now four years in, the Strike Force continues to add new partners at the Federal, State and global level, boasting of more than 30,000 government officials trained in detection and prosecution of procurement offenses. The Strike Force touts its growing ranks of trained eyes and ears on the ground anywhere government funds are spent. The PCSF is sending an increasingly aggressive enforcement message that should put those engaged with government contracts, federal funds, and procurement officials on high alert.Continue Reading Aggressive Procurement Collusion Enforcement Risk Remains High for 2024

On November 21, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) announced its approval of an omnibus resolution authorizing the use of compulsory process for nonpublic investigations concerning products or services that use artificial intelligence (“AI”). Compulsory process refers to information or document requests, such as subpoenas or civil investigative demands, for which compliance is enforceable by courts. Recipients who fail to comply with compulsory process may face contempt charges.Continue Reading AI Enforcement Update: FTC Authorizes Compulsory Process for AI Investigations

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last week the advent of a new safe harbor for companies that discover wrongdoing by the acquired business in the course of an M&A transaction. Buyers hoping to take advantage of this avenue for leniency would be well-advised to conduct thorough diligence and act quickly to report any wrongdoing they uncover, as the potential upsides for those who do so may be considerable in light of the DOJ’s new policy.Continue Reading DOJ Announces Mergers & Acquisitions Safe Harbor Policy

On September 21, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe (WCAS) and U.S. Anesthesia Partners, Inc. (USAP), in the Southern District of Texas, alleging the two companies “[e]xecuted a multi-year anticompetitive scheme to consolidate anesthesiology practices in Texas, drive up the price of anesthesia services provided to Texas patients, and boost their own profits.”Continue Reading FTC Sues Private Equity Firm and Anesthesiology Practice for Antitrust Violations

As generative AI becomes an increasingly integral part of the modern economy, antitrust and consumer protection agencies continue to raise concerns about the technology’s potential to promote unfair methods of competition. Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) Chair Lina Khan recently warned on national news that “AI could be used to turbocharge fraud and scams” and the FTC is watching to ensure large companies do not use AI to “squash competition.”[1] The FTC has recently written numerous blogs on the subject,[2] signaling its intent to “use [the FTC’s] full range of tools to identify and address unfair methods of competition” that generative AI may create.[3] Similarly, Jonathan Kanter, head of the Antitrust Division at Department of Justice (“the DOJ”), said that the current model of AI “is inherently dependent on scale” and may “present a greater risk of having deep moats and barriers to entry.”[4] Kanter recently added that “there are all sorts of different ways to deploy machine learning technologies, and how it’s deployed can be different in the healthcare space, the energy space, the consumer tech space, the enterprise tech space,” and antitrust enforcers shouldn’t be so intimidated by artificial intelligence and machine learning technology that they stop enforcing the laws.[5]Continue Reading AI Under the Antitrust Microscope: Competition Enforcers Focusing on Generative AI from All Angles

It has been another busy year for the Department of Justice’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF). Formed in 2019, the Department of Justice created the PCSF, a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact government procurement, grant, and program funding at all levels of government – federal, state and local. The PCSF is a constellation of partnerships among the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, multiple U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Inspectors General for multiple federal agencies working together to crack down on unlawful anticompetitive activities in the public procurement process.Continue Reading Government Contracting Companies Beware: DOJ’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force is Global, Growing, and Going Strong

Antitrust enforcement has been heating up over the last few years in several areas – notably in healthcare and labor.[1] As the antitrust climate intensifies and spreads, private equity (PE) firms are starting to feel the heat, finding themselves the focus of increased antitrust scrutiny. Significantly, antitrust enforcement and litigation risks are moving from the portfolio companies to the PE firms themselves. Three areas of heightened risk stand out: interlocking directorates, roll-ups, and PE divestiture buyers.[2]Continue Reading Hot Antitrust Enforcement Climate Reaches Private Equity

On April 11, 2023, the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) issued a public comment on four proposed rules promulgated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“the SEC”). The four proposed rules target national market system (“NMS”) stocks by (1) expanding disclosures of order execution information (“Rule 605 Proposal”);[1] (2) amending minimum pricing increments, access fees, and transparency requirements (“Regulation NMS Proposal”);[2] (3) enhancing competition for certain orders (“Order Competition Proposal”);[3] and (4) establishing a duty of best execution for certain market participants (“Best Execution Proposal”).[4] The DOJ’s comment warns the SEC of the possible negative interactions between the four proposed rules and the antitrust dangers of issuing the rules all at once.Continue Reading DOJ Antitrust Division Cautions SEC on Proposed Equity Market Restructuring

On April 3, 2023, the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) filed a civil complaint against Activision Blizzard Inc. (“Activision”) alleging that the “competitive balance tax” constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act,[1] and entered into a proposed consent decree (a binding settlement) that, if approved by a court, would bar the gaming company from imposing a “tax” against its esports leagues that exceed spending limits on player compensation.Continue Reading No More Games: Activision Settles with DOJ Over Esports Compensation