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Making the Sentencing Guidelines Message Complete

As the U.S. Sentencing Commission considers reforms of the guidelines for antitrust crimes, it should take action to affirm the importance of antitrust compliance programs as an essential tool in the fight against cartels, and to provide a balance against the Antitrust Division’s past approach of refusing to consider compliance programs in any case for any purpose. The Division has been an outlier in the Department of Justice in rejecting the Sentencing Commission’s premise that companies may have violations even when they have good programs. The Division’s “one-size-fits-all” policy of never giving any type of benefit or credit for diligent compliance efforts, no matter what the f [...]

Substantial Reform of EU Merger Control on the Cards

On 9 July 2014, the European Commission published a White Paper setting out proposals to amend the EU merger control system. The proposed reform of the system is the most significant in the last 10 years and could have an impact on many corporate transactions.

The proposals

The proposals deal with the following:

  • the expansion of the Commission’s powers to review the acquisition of non-controlling minority shareholdings;
  • the streamlining of the case referral system between the Commission and the EU Member States; and
  • measures aimed at simplifying merger procedures, including amending the EU Merger Regulation so that extra-EEA joint ventures do not require notification, and the introduction [...]
Convictions, $500 Million Fine Upheld in Price Fixing Case Against AU Optronics; Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act No Bar

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week upheld the price fixing convictions of Taiwanese electronics manufacturer AU Optronics (AUO), its U.S. subsidiary, and two company executives. The appellate court also affirmed a $500 million fine against AUO, the only defendant to challenge the sentence. The case is U.S. v. Hsiung, No. 12-10492.

In March 2012, following an eight-week trial, a jury found AUO, AU Optronics Corporation America (AUOA), and AUO’s former president and former executive vice president guilty of conspiring to fix prices of thin-film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels.  The display panels are used in flat panel computer monitors, notebook comput [...]

FTC/DOJ Workshop on Conditional Pricing Practices – Good as Far as It Goes

On June 23, 2014, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division held a workshop on “conditional pricing practices”—loyalty discounts, bundled discounts and similar pricing techniques.  Many economists, academic experts and practitioners, some of them even hailing from outside the Beltway, opined on the rationale for and against antitrust legality of such common marketing practices.  The agencies are to be congratulated for leading this discussion and advancing the thinking on this important topic; still, real-world businesses continue to look for clearer guidance than what has been provided by the agencies and courts to date, but the conference promis [...]

Second Circuit Clarifies Application of Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City on June 4 ruled that the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (FTAIA) barred the antitrust claims of a Taiwanese electronics manufacturing company with facilities in China against a group of foreign competitors. In its decision, the court followed the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Minn‐Chem, Inc. v. Agrium, Inc., 683 F.3d 845, 2012-1 Trade Cases ¶77,943.

The judgment of the district court dismissing Lotes Co., Ltd.’s claims was affirmed, but on alternative grounds. Even if Lotes had alleged the statutorily required “direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect” on U.S. domestic or import commerce, any such effect did not [...]

So Whatever Happened to American Needle?

You remember American Needle, right?  It is the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that explains when the action of a joint venture is the action of a single entity or, instead, the result of an agreement among the joint venture members.  Now back on remand in federal district court in Chicago, some recent summary judgment decisions might eventually make the case known for some interesting market definition questions.

American Needle was a licensee of NFL Properties (NFL) that challenged under Sherman Act Section 1 the NFL’s decision in 2000 to terminate the licenses of American Needle and others to make NFL-trademarked hats and grant an exclusive license to Reebok.  One of the NFL’s def [...]

Is the FTC Changing Its Intellectual Property Rights Policy?

Commissioner Josh Wright of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission certainly is the gift that keeps on giving to antitrust commentators.  Rarely do many weeks go by without a Wright speech or dissenting opinion that cogently takes on an interesting competition issue, often one captured in an action by his fellow commissioners.  Last month’s example was a speech to the New York City Bar Association provocatively titled, “Does the FTC Have a New IP Agenda?”  Wright believes the answer to his question is “yes,” and that the shift is not helpful.  Much of the support for Wright’s assertion of a change comes from two FTC matters that predate his tenure and alarmed the business communit [...]

McSweeny Confirmed by Senate to Fill Vacancy at FTC, Will Give Democratic Majority to Commission

The Federal Trade Commission will soon be back to having a full complement of five commissioners. Today, the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 95 to 1, confirmed Terrell McSweeny to fill a vacancy at the agency created by the departure of Jon D. Leibowitz more than a year ago. The term runs through September 26, 2017.

The White House announced the nomination of McSweeny in June 2013. Although her nomination was not controversial, her confirmation was delayed because the Senate failed to take a vote before year’s end. In November 2013, the  Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee had voted to report the nomination to the full Senate; however, the nomination needed to be reconsidere [...]

Enforcers Update Spring Meeting Attendees on Latest Antitrust Developments

In case you missed some of those morning sessions at the American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law Spring Meeting last week, here are some of the highlights from the updates with federal and state enforcers.

Agency Update with the Deputy Assistant Attorneys General

There were some new faces on the panel this year at the Section’s annual update from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. In addition to changes in leadership, over the last year the Antitrust Division has seen an increase in hiring that will support its continued enforcement activities, the enforcers reported during the March 26 session.

David Gelfand and Brent Snyder are the newest deputy assistant attorneys gen [...]

Note on a Missed Opportunity for the Administration of Justice Across Europe

About ten days ago, the Council of the EU failed to reach an agreement on the proposed increase in the number of judges sitting at the General Court of the European Union.  The Council thus buried ‑ and for quite a while – a proposal which could have helped the General Court reduce its currently impressive backlog of cases.

This backlog has been problematic for over a decade now.  It reached an unprecedented level last year, with “an all-time high” number of 790 new cases brought to the General Court, a jump of nearly 30% compared with 2012.  Despite the General Court’s constant efforts (three additional chambers; optimized scheduling of hearings; simplified procedure in trade m [...]

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