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Jake Walker is an associate in the Antitrust and Competition Practice Group in the firm's Washington, D.C. office.

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

On March 5, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) hosted a public workshop titled “Private Capital, Public Impact: An FTC Workshop on Private Equity in Health Care”, which covered the impact of private equity investment on the health care system. The workshop included panelists from the FTC, the Department of Justice (“the DOJ”), the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) (together, “the Agencies”), academic thought-leaders, and health care professionals. On the same day as the workshop the Agencies launched a “Cross-Government Inquiry on Impact of Corporate Greed in Health Care,” issuing a Request for Information (“RFI”) seeking public comment on health care deals involving private equity firms, including deals that would not be reportable under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act. The Agencies will use the RFI to inform future enforcement and policy decisions related to health care consolidation. The public has 60 days to submit comments to the Agencies.Continue Reading The FTC Hosts Workshop on Private Equity in Health Care

On December 18, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice (the “Agencies”) jointly issued Final Merger Guidelines, following a public comment period on the Proposed Merger Guidelines first issued in July. The Final Merger Guidelines update and replace the 2010 Horizontal Merger Guidelines and the rescinded 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines. The Final Merger Guidelines kept important components from the Proposed Merger Guidelines (e.g., lower thresholds rendering certain transactions presumptively illegal, focus on cumulative effects of multiple acquisitions, etc.). Among the most significant developments from prior iterations of the merger guidelines are the adoption of a market share threshold in determining when a transaction is presumed to be illegal, expansion of the concept of vertical mergers to include mergers involving “related” products or services, and formal espousal of the current Administration’s focus on the impact of mergers on labor.Continue Reading The Wait is Over: DOJ and FTC Issue Final Merger Guidelines

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

On August 16, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) marked its first enforcement action of the prohibitions on interlocking directorates under Section 8 of the Clayton Act in over 40 years. Section 8 prohibits an officer or director of one firm from simultaneously serving as an officer or director of a competing firm under most circumstances.[1] The FTC accepted for public comment a consent order conditioning the 5.2 billion dollar cash‑and-stock deal between two rival natural gas producers on preventing “entanglements between the two companies and the exchange of confidential, competitively sensitive information.” Under the consent order, Quantum Energy Partners (“Quantum”) representatives may not serve on EQT Corporation’s (“EQT”) Board of Directors and must divest its EQT shares. The consent order also unwinds a pre-existing joint venture between the two entities and imposes additional restraints to protect competition.Continue Reading Antitrust Enforcement Agencies Continue to Target Interlocking Directorate Arrangements

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

On June 2nd, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) announced modifications to its in-house adjudicative proceedings. Under these new rules, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) presiding over an administrative hearing can only issue “recommended” decisions that are reviewed automatically by the FTC Commissioners (the “Commission”). The Commission, during their now-automatic review, may affirm the recommended decision in full or reject the decision, in whole or in part, and issue its own decision adopting different findings of fact or conclusions of law. Before the Commission acts on an ALJ’s recommended decision, it must provide the parties with an opportunity to submit a brief that states any exceptions to the decision.Continue Reading FTC Modifies Role of Administrative Judges Amid Heightened Agency Scrutiny

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

The Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) and Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (the “DOJ”) (together the “Agencies”) continue to carry out the Biden Administration’s stated mission to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement to “Promote Competition in the American Economy.”Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants in Real Estate: Next Antitrust Enforcement Target?

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

On March 9, the FTC unanimously voted to block the proposed merger between the nation’s largest provider of home mortgage loan origination systems (LOS) and other key lender software tools, and its top competitor that offers the same services. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that one company owns the country’s dominant LOS platform, while the other company owns and operates the second-largest platform. In a press release announcing the administrative complaint, the FTC stated that the deal “would drive up costs, reduce innovation, and reduce lenders’ choices for tools necessary to generate and service mortgages.”Continue Reading FTC Seeks to Block Deal Between Top Mortgage Loan Technology Providers