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Antitrust Law and Effects on Innovation, Quality and the Labor Market

Antitrust law debates usually emphasize price effects while other elements of competition get less attention.  Three recent writings by leading antitrust thinkers, however, explore the interaction between antitrust law and competition, on the one hand, and innovation, quality and long-term labor markets, respectively, on the other.  As summarized below, each piece discusses an attribute of competition other than price that might be used to provide a more accurate description of the dynamic competitive effects in any market.

Professors Spencer Weber Waller and Matthew Sag of Loyola University Chicago School of Law discuss competition law and Promoting Innovation in the Iowa Law Review.  (A [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

The Auto Parts Antitrust Case: Is This What Success Looks Like?

Wow, what a success! The Antitrust Division recently announced that its investigations in the auto parts market uncovered “separate conspiracies to fix the prices of more than 30 different products sold to US car manufacturers ….” [1] This adds to the results thus far in the investigation, with guilty pleas from 20 companies and fines of over $1.6 billion. Seventeen executives are either in or headed to prison. And ongoing investigations mean more are in the works. In the words of the head of criminal enforcement in the Division, “The deterrent impact of their sentences should resonate in boardrooms around the world.”

But wait, should this make us feel comfortable about antitrust enforceme [...]

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 [...]

The FCC’s Incentive Auction: Getting Spectrum Policy Right

The authors are David Balto, an antitrust attorney in Washington, D.C., who was formerly a policy director of the Federal Trade Commission, attorney-adviser to Chairman Robert Pitofsky, and trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Hal J. Singer, Ph.D., who is a Managing Director at Navigant Economics and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute.

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers how to allocate the broadcasters’ spectrum in the upcoming “incentive auction,” it should be guided by economic principles designed to maximize social benefits. To date, the spectrum policy debate largely has been driven by considerations of the private benefits of [...]

Justice Department Proposes Remedy for Apple’s Antitrust Violations in e-Book Market

The Department of Justice Antitrust Division on Friday filed its proposed remedy with the federal district court in New York City, addressing Apple Inc.’s role in a conspiracy among publishers to fix retail prices for electronic books, or e-books. Following a bench trial, the court last month found Apple liable in an action brought by the Justice Department and 33 states and territories. At that time, the court said it would entertain the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief and damages at a later date. 

According to the government’s Memorandum of Law in Support of Proposed Injunction, the proposed final judgment “will halt Apple’s anticompetitive conduct, restore lost competit [...]

Apple Found to Have Orchestrated Conspiracy to Fix E-Book Prices

Apple Inc. played a central role in facilitating and executing a conspiracy among publishers to fix retail prices for electronic books, or e-books, the federal district court in New York City decided last week. The finding of liability against Apple comes after a bench trial that lasted from June 3 to June 20 in an action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and 33 states and territories.

In April 2012, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and a number of state attorneys general brought actions against Apple and leading publishers for conspiring to fix the sales prices of e-books. The suits named as defendants Apple and publishers Hachette Book Group (USA), HarperCollins Publish [...]

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 [...]

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