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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 [...]

A Legal Rationale for Liability Under Section 2 of the Sherman Act for Patent ‘Hold-up’ by Patent Assertion Entities with Respect to Standard Essential Patents

(Note:  In December 2012, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission held a Hearing on the impact of patent assertion entities (PAEs) on innovation and competition and the implications for antitrust enforcement policy.  The Agencies then issued a Request for Public Comments on the topic of the Hearing.  In response, on April 5th, Richard Wolfram submitted the following comment to the DOJ and FTC, adapted and shortened here for Antitrust Connect.  The full Public Comment – one of almost 70 public comments submitted to the Agencies — is available at http://www.ftc.gov/os/comments/pae/pae-0066.pdf or from the author.)

This comment is submitted in my personal capacity and d [...]

Federal Antitrust Agency Heads Testify at Senate Subcommittee Antitrust Oversight Hearing

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and William J. Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee on Tuesday. The hearing, entitled “Oversight of the Enforcement of the Antitrust Laws,” was the subcommittee’s first antitrust oversight hearing since Ramirez and Baer took the helms of their respective agencies.

In his prepared statement, Baer said that the Antitrust Division is focusing its enforcement efforts on “products consumers use every day…as well as other goods and services that have a significant impact on our nation’s economy, including health care, agriculture, transpor [...]

Thoughts on the DOJ’s Move to Block Further Anheuser-Busch InBev/Grupo Modelo Linkage

My partner Lee Van Voorhis in Washington drafted some thoughts on this transaction, which I thought would be of interest to the Kluwer readership.

DOJ Sues to Block Further Anheuser-Busch InBev/Grupo Modelo Linkage

On January 31, 2013, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it filed a complaint in federal district court seeking to block Anheuser Busch InBev (“ABI”) from acquiring the portion of Grupo Modelo (“Modelo”) it does not already own. The challenge highlights the importance of company documents, the risks of an upfront remedy and other antitrust tips for merging parties.

The Complaint’s allegations

ABI currently has a 43 percent voting [...]

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