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.” The FTC has recently written numerous blogs on the subject, 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. 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.” 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.Continue Reading AI Under the Antitrust Microscope: Competition Enforcers Focusing on Generative AI from All Angles
Joy Siu is an associate in the Antitrust and Competition Practice Group in the firm’s San Francisco office.
On July 19, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice jointly published long-anticipated proposed merger guidelines (the “Proposed Merger Guidelines”), which had been expected since President Biden issued an Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy in the summer of 2021. According to the agencies, the Proposed Merger Guidelines “build upon, expand, and clarify” the prior guidance, to keep up with “modern” market realities. In contrast to the previous versions, the Proposed Merger Guidelines cover both horizontal and vertical mergers. They also cite case law for the first time. Reflecting the Biden Administration’s views on federal antitrust merger enforcement, the Proposed Merger Guidelines substantially expand the types of competitive harm the agencies consider grounds for challenging a transaction under Section 7 of the Clayton Act (which prohibits mergers where the effect is “substantially to lessen competition” or “to tend to create a monopoly”).Continue Reading A Big Deal: FTC and DOJ Issue Long-Awaited New Draft Merger Guidelines
The Department of Justice (DOJ) lost its third jury trial in its mission to secure criminal convictions against companies and executives accused of labor-side antitrust violations on March 22, 2023, when a jury in Maine acquitted four home healthcare staffing executives of violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In United States v. Manahe, the DOJ charged Faysal Kalayaf Manahe, Yaser Aali, Ammar Alkinani, and Quasim Saesah with entering into an approximately two-month conspiracy between April and May 2020 not to hire each other’s caretakers and to fix caretaker wages. After the district court declined to dismiss the indictment, holding the DOJ had successfully alleged a per se conspiracy to fix wages and allocate employees, the case proceeded to a two-week trial. At trial, defendants—all immigrants from Iraq, many of whom served as translators for U.S. forces there—admitted that they discussed setting wage levels and refraining from hiring each other’s employees, and even drafted an agreement with signature lines that outlined the terms of defendants’ discussions. Defendants argued that they never reached an agreement in violation of Section 1 because the draft agreement was never signed. Defense counsel emphasized in opening statements that in defendants’ culture, “when dealing with business matters . . . the only way to confirm a commitment is to put it into a formal written contract.” Given the verdict, it appears the jury agreed.Continue Reading DOJ Loses Third Consecutive Antitrust Labor Trial
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.”
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
Over the last three decades, government antitrust enforcers and private plaintiffs in the United States have increasingly sought to apply U.S. antitrust laws to conduct by foreign businesses that is deemed to have effects on the U.S. economy. Many of these foreign businesses have been located in Asia: since the 1990s there have been waves of U.S. criminal prosecutions and civil cases alleging anticompetitive conspiracies between Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese sellers and manufacturers. For most of this time, however, companies in mainland China—despite being the largest exporters of goods to the United States, first in Asia and now in the entire world—have rarely been targeted for U.S. antitrust enforcement.
Continue Reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Vitamin C and the Future of U.S. Antitrust Enforcement Against Chinese Companies *