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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 [...]
Combination of Idaho’s Largest Health System and Largest Physician Practice Must Be Unwound

Within the span of about two weeks, each of the federal antitrust agencies has been handed a major win in their merger enforcement efforts.

Last Friday, it was the Federal Trade Commission’s turn. The U.S. district court in Boise ordered St. Luke’s Health System, Ltd.—the largest health care system in Idaho—to divest Saltzer Medical Group—the state’s largest independent, multi-specialty physician practice—after concluding that St. Luke’s 2012 acquisition of Saltzer violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act and the Idaho Competition Act. In that matter, the FTC and the State of Idaho joined a challenge initiated by private plaintiffs.

On January 8, the federal district court in San Fr [...]

Combination of online consumer review platforms Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews found to violate Clayton Act

Last week, the federal district court in San Francisco ruled that Bazaarvoice Inc.’s June 2012 acquisition of PowerReviews Inc. violated Sec. 7 of the Clayton Act. In a “necessarily lengthy Opinion,” the court concluded that the Department of Justice Antitrust Division prevailed in the liability phase of its case against the leading provider of online Ratings and Reviews platforms (R&R) over its acquisition of its primary competitor. A status conference has been set for January 22 to consider the remedy phase of the litigation. The court could order Bazaarvoice to divest PowerReviews assets to create a viable competitor, even though the merger was completed 18 months ago.

The Justice Depart [...]

Is the FTC Picking on the Pharmaceutical Industry Through New HSR Rules?

Effective December 16, 2013, Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) coverage of exclusive licenses of patents will change. As HSR practitioners know well, the Federal Trade Commission’s Premerger Notification Office (PNO) has long-interpreted HSR to cover exclusive licenses as a reportable acquisition (assuming all other requirements are met) if the licensor did not retain any rights to “make, use or sell” under the patent. Now, the PNO’s formal rules will consider a patent license a reportable acquisition even if the licensor retains the right to manufacture—but solely for the licensee—or if the licensor retains the right to co-market, but, again, solely with the licensee. The PNO’s thinking [...]

EU Merger Control – New Measures Aimed to Reduce Administrative Burden

On 5 December, the European Commission published a package of measures to reduce the administrative burden of EU merger control, which will apply as of 1 January 2014.

The package extends the scope of the simplified procedure for non-problematic cases. This means that more transactions may be notified using the Short Form CO, which will reduce the burden notwithstanding the fact the “Short” Form CO is still a fairly lengthy document. The European Commission considers that its proposed changes could allow up to 60-70% of all notified mergers to qualify for review under the simplified procedure, which is about 10% more than today.

The European Commission has also introduced various amendm [...]

U.S. Agency Heads Discuss Antitrust Enforcement Priorities

Two of the most significant conferences on the antitrust calendar were held last week. Georgetown Law Center featured its Seventh Annual Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium on September 25, and Fordham Law School’s 40th annual international antitrust law and policy conference  took place on September 26 and 27.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and William Baer, Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, delivered remarks on their latest enforcement priorities at both programs.

In case you missed these great programs, here are some brief summaries of the enforcers’ presentations.

Global Antitrust Enforcement

Chairwoman Ramirez kicked off the Georgetown prog [...]

HSR Compliance: The Consequences of Being Lackadaisical … A $720,000 Fine

MacAndrews and Forbes’ (M&F) settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) on June 20, 2013, provides a good reminder that simply surviving the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act waiting period or receiving an early termination is not the end of HSR premerger notification compliance.  The settlement demonstrates the need to be continually vigilant of HSR compliance matters, including, e.g., time periods and size of transactions.  M&F agreed to pay $720,000 to settle charges that it violated the premerger notification and waiting period requirements of the HSR Act when it acquired voting securities of Scientific Games Corporation (SG) in a follow-on acquisition.

The DOJ simultaneously filed a [...]

The one-handed European Merger Simplification Project?

Like the European Commission, I am confident that the European Merger Simplification Project will bring benefits for clients. As many commentators have affirmed, I do not doubt that the increase of the currently applicable market share thresholds for the identification of horizontally and vertically “affected markets” by 5 per cent to 20% and 30% respectively will allow more cases to be treated with less pain. Equally, the “safe harbour” for mergers with very small increments in concentration should be welcomed. If this leads to a lesser administrative burden for companies trying to business in Europe during these continuingly difficult times, then all the better.

However, I am conce [...]

Recent Developments in Chinese Merger Control – MOFCOM Shifts up a Gear

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (“MOFCOM“) has stepped up its merger control activities on many fronts in recent weeks, issuing ground-breaking decisions in the Glencore/Xstrata and Marubeni/Gavilon cases and circulating draft procedural rules for public consultation on merger remedies and on dealing with straightforward merger control cases.

The new decisions
On April 16, 2013, MOFCOM issued approval for Glencore’s acquisition of Xstrata subject to conditions. Less than a week later, on April 22, it did likewise for the takeover of Gavilon by Marubeni.

Overall MOFCOM’s approach in both transactions was remarkably similar. However, there were also some key differences.

Common featur [...]

Phoebe Putney: A Quick Post-Mortem, and Some Thoughts on the Next Justice Stevens

I often feel a certain deflation after the Supreme Court decides an antitrust case.  After watching a case for months, prognosticating about it with other antitrusters, reading umpteen blog posts, reading the briefs if you’re into it and even some amici briefs if you’re really into it, the Court then rules one way or the other, and usually tailors its opinion pretty narrowly, breaking no meaningfully new ground.  I suppose many will have that feeling about Tuesday’s decision in Federal Trade Commission v. Phoebe Putney Mem. Hosp. Sys., and some are already saying that Justice Sotomayor’s brief opinion for a unanimous Court is just a narrow application of garden variety state action [...]

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