COVID-19 Outbreak and Adjusted EU State Aid Control

The unique EU State aid control law requires, in principle, prior notification by Member States and approval by the Commission of all State aid. During a time of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, EU law allows for a flexible approach for approving urgent State aid. In this post, we discuss the current state of play in the EU and offer some general items to consider for undertakings receiving State aid during this extraordinary time. Continue Reading

Arizona District Court Tentatively Dismisses Axon v. FTC

On March 10, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona issued a tentative ruling denying Axon Enterprise’s motion for preliminary injunction and dismissing its complaint against the Federal Trade Commission, due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

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Coronavirus Sparks Changes to Premerger Notification Process at the FTC

In response to COVID-19, the FTC’s Premerger Notification Office (PNO) just announced several changes for all Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) filings going forward.  While these changes have been described as temporary, no specific end date has been identified.

  1. Hard copy HSR filings will no longer be accepted, until further notice
  2. No HSR filings whatsoever may be submitted on Monday, March 16.
  3. Starting at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, HSR filings must be submitted through a new, temporary e-filing system.  That system is not yet operational.  It will require parties to upload documents to a secure FTP site.
  4. While this temporary e-filing system is in place, early termination will not be granted for any filing.

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DOJ and FTC To Focus On Antitrust and Consumer Protection Violations Relating to Coronavirus

The rapidly evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation is impacting local and global companies, disrupting supply chains, creating volatility in the stock market, and causing great concern in local communities.  As part of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have announced that they will use their competition and consumer protection enforcement powers to go after offenders taking advantage of the concerns triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak.  The DOJ will focus on “hard-core” Section 1 antitrust violations, like price-fixing of personal health protection products, while the FTC will focus on consumer protection violations, like scammers selling fake coronavirus treatments or vaccines. Continue Reading

Higher Filing Thresholds for HSR Act Premerger Notifications and Interlocking Directorates Announced

Higher Thresholds For HSR Filings

On January 28, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission announced revised, higher thresholds for premerger filings under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976. The filing thresholds are revised annually, based on the change in Gross National Product (GNP).

The new thresholds will become effective on February 27, 2020. Acquisitions that have not closed by the effective date will be subject to the new thresholds. Continue Reading

Navigating Dangerous Shoals: The Murky but Critical Territorial Boundaries of U.S. Antitrust Jurisdiction

Virtually all significant antitrust cases these days have an international component. Markets now are worldwide. Consequently, one of the most frequently litigated—and most important issues—is the extent of U.S. jurisdiction. Which sales are subject to trebling in a U.S. court? Which sales must be pursued elsewhere? Frequently, the key statute is the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (FTAIA). The resulting litigation, unfortunately, has not resulted in clear rules or signposts. And, the cases are highly fact-specific. The facts matter. Continue Reading

Axon Sues FTC Over Use of Administrative Adjudication in Merger Investigations

On January 3, 2020, Axon Enterprises Inc. filed a complaint against the Federal Trade Commission in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona challenging the constitutionality of the FTC’s administrative process.  Axon’s complaint marks the latest salvo in a decades-long critique of the disparity between FTC and Department of Justice merger enforcement procedures.

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The State of Washington Has Another Arrow in its Healthcare Antitrust Quiver: State Healthcare Antitrust Enforcement in the Spotlight

On May 7, 2019, The Governor of the State of Washington signed into law Substitute House Bill 1607 (“HB 1607”) – a first-of-its-kind premerger notification requirement covering healthcare transactions closing on or after January 1, 2020. HB 1607 is a timely reminder that state attorneys general have not hesitated in recent years to enforce both federal and their own state antitrust laws when a transaction poses local anticompetitive concerns. Continue Reading

International Arbitration, Investment Protection and EU State Aid Rules: the General Court of the EU Annuls the European Commission’s State Aid Decision in the Micula Case

In a long-awaited ruling of June 18, 2019, the General Court of the European Union (“GCEU”) annulled the European Commission’s 2015 State aid decision in the Micula case (joined cases T-624/15, T-694/15 and T-704/15). The ruling provides valuable clarifications regarding the relationship between intra-EU bilateral investment treaties (“BIT”) and EU State aid rules.

In sum, the GCEU confirmed that the European Commission lacked jurisdiction to apply EU law in a situation where all relevant events took place before accession to the EU. The validity of intra-EU BITs was not at issue because, during the relevant time period, the BIT in question (the 2002 Sweden-Romania BIT) was between a Member State (Sweden) and a third country (Romania). Continue Reading

Why Aren’t There More California Below-Cost Pricing Cases? *

California’s below-cost pricing statute, the Unfair Practices Act (the “UPA”), is perhaps the broadest such statute in the nation, and far broader than comparable federal laws, which have been narrowed in recent decades almost to the vanishing point.  Indeed, the statute—which dates back to the Great Depression and the era of New Deal economics—could be interpreted as a bright line prohibition against pricing just about anything below cost to take business from a competitor.  See Bus. & Prof. Code § 17043.  And yet, at least by the hyperactive standards of contemporary commercial litigation, the statute has not been heavily employed or even spoken about, mainly collecting cobwebs in the dim corners of law libraries. Continue Reading

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