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North Carolina Dentists is in the Hizzouse, Y’all! Woot Woot!

So, the only real surprise about yesterday’s opinion in North Carolina State Bd of Dental Examiners v. FTC is that it wasn’t unanimous.  The strongly worded six-member majority opinion, already receiving early applause (see here and here), is further proof that the only thing the current Supreme Court dislikes more than antitrust plaintiffs is state government pork.

For those of us passionate dorks who follow immunities issues closely (I, for one, only recently emerged from the ashes of this epic book project), North Carolina State Board is a candy store, really much more so than the Court’s other very recent, pro-enforcement state action smackdown, FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health Sys., I [...]

European Commission Dawn Raids—Advocate General Recommends the Avoidance of “Fishing Expeditions”

Earlier this month, Advocate General Wahl delivered his opinion in the Deutsche Bahn[1] case. This case concerns important practical principles which govern the conduct of European Commission dawn raids (on-the-spot surprise inspections used to investigate possible infringements of the EU competition rules). In particular, the case focusses on what inspectors can do with documents that they have found during an inspection which do not relate to the subject matter of their inspection, but indicate separate unrelated anti-competitive behaviour.

Business needs to review closely this opinion (and final judgment in this case) to ensure that their dawn raid procedures and training reflect best pra [...]

So Maybe the Robinson-Patman Act Isn’t Dead After All

Woodman’s Food Market is a chain of warehouse-style grocery stores in Wisconsin. As such, its sales strategy was similar to that employed by Costco and Sam’s Club: the ability to purchase groceries at lower prices by purchasing in large size containers. However, Woodman’s did not charge a membership fee as a prerequisite to shopping at its stores.

On Sept. 9, 2014, Woodman’s met with a representative of the Clorox Company who advised that as of Oct. 1, Woodman’s would no longer be able to purchase these large packs of products, since the Clorox had decided that it would recategorize Woodman’s into its “General Market” retailers, i.e., as an ordinary grocery store. This was pa [...]

Bridging the Gap? Canada Takes on Cross-Border Price Discrimination

The Canadian government is determined to remedy what it (and many Canadians) regard as an unjustified gap between US and Canadian prices for the same goods. In particular, the government has focused on what it perceives to be unjustified “country pricing” or “cross-border price discrimination”, ie, businesses charging more for goods sold in Canada than in the US beyond what might be justified by the allegedly higher costs of doing business in Canada.

The government’s interest in this issue followed a report by the Canadian Senate in February 2013 which tentatively concluded that the segmentation of the Canadian and US markets “reduces competition and allows some manufacturers – [...]

A Look Back at U.S. Antitrust Enforcement in 2014

The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division had another active year in antitrust enforcement in 2014.

As for FTC antitrust enforcement efforts, FTC Bureau of Competition Director Deborah L. Feinstein was kind enough to provide a list of the “Ten Competition Happenings for 2014” on the agency’s Competition Matters blog. Her list included four enforcement actions that are worth a second look:

(1) the FTC’s action against two leading propane exchange tank suppliers for allegedly coordinating to reduce the amount of propane in their tanks sold to Walmart (In the Matter of Ferrellgas Partners, L.P., FTC Dkt. 9360);

(2) the Commission’s challenge to the (now aband [...]

Mama Mia, Here We Go Again

Just over a year ago, I wrote (rather extensively) on the European Commission’s public consultation entitled “Towards more effective EU Merger Control” in which the Commission proposed to (i) expand its powers to review non-controlling minority interests and (ii) streamline the case referral system between the European Commission and NCAs.

Our regular readers will note that Mark Jones alerted them to the European Commission’s second public consultation on this subject. As Mark noted, the deadline for this consultation closes on 3 October 2014.

The purpose of this post is not to repeat Mark’s (or indeed my prior 2013 post). Rather I thought that it may be useful to put down some tho [...]

Monopoly Claims Can Survive Summary Judgment: Medtronic Must Defend Conduct in “Bone Mill” Market

One firm’s ability to break into the market for “bone mills” used in spinal-fusion surgery did not foreclose the possibility that medical device company Medtronic monopolized or attempted to monopolize the bone mill market, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver ruled last week. Bone mill manufacturer Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corporation raised sufficient fact questions, including questions regarding barriers to entry, to defeat summary judgment on its monopolization and attempted monopolization claims. The August 5, 2014, decision is Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corp. v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 13-1307.

The suit follows a falling out between Lenox and Medtronic. Lenox had sold some of its bone mi [...]

Can Bundled Discounts Be Illegal If Offered by a Firm Without Market Power?

Bundled discounts are common marketing schemes that normally benefit consumers and competition; however, courts and commentators have found certain circumstances when they might be illegal monopolization.  The line between hard competition and exclusionary conduct has confounded antitrust counselors and their pricing clients for years, but, it seemed like only companies with monopoly power need be concerned.  Now, a Pennsylvania district court in Schuylkill Health Systems v. Cardinal Health, Inc., et al., has further muddied the waters by allowing a bundling claim to proceed under Sherman Act Section 1, even after dismissing other claims for lack of market or monopoly power.

A bundled disc [...]

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 [...]
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