Staples’ parent company recently announced plans for an attempt to buy all outstanding stock of Office Depot’s parent company (ODP) for $2.1 billion, stating that it will pursue an all-cash tender offer in March if the parties cannot reach an agreement by then.
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Antitrust Update Blog is a source of insights, information and analysis on criminal and civil antitrust and competition-related issues. Patterson Belknap’s antitrust lawyers represent clients in antitrust litigation and counseling matters, including those related to pricing, marketing, distribution, franchising, and joint ventures and other strategic alliances. We have significant experience with government civil and criminal/cartel investigations, providing the unique perspectives of former top U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division lawyers from both the civil and criminal sides.
Litigation concerning reverse-payment settlements remains active. In the coming year, we expect to see material developments regarding treatment of non-monetary settlements of underlying patent litigation, as courts continue to grapple with what constitutes a “large and unjustified” payment. Likewise, we expect further insights regarding the admissibility of expert opinions concerning the likelihood of success of the underlying patent litigation. Read our recent article on this subject here.
Antitrust litigation has been ongoing for several years in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against one of the biggest business associations in America, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (“BCBSA”) and its members. We previously wrote about this litigation here and here. BCBSA is comprised of independent health insurers that license the “Blue Cross” and “Blue Shield” trademarks from BCBSA. As a condition of their licenses, BCBSA members grant each member exclusive geographic territories where each is allowed to use the Blue trademarks; some BCBSA members also happen to enjoy very high market shares in a number of their respective jurisdictions. There are also licensing rules that limit how much revenue each member can derive from lines of business that do not use the Blue trademarks. One of these rules was the “National Best Efforts Rule.” This rule required that two-thirds of each member’s national revenue be derived from Blue-branded plans. In other words, while each member could theoretically compete in others’ territories using brands that did not include the “Blue Cross” and “Blue Shield” trademarks, there was a cap on how much business a member could generate this way. These restrictions allegedly reduced competition between BCBSA members
Yesterday we discussed 2019’s most significant developments in challenges to reverse-payment settlements. Today we continue our analysis of recent trends in pharmaceutical antitrust actions with a discussion of cases addressing class certification requirements in the reverse-payment context.
2019 witnessed a number of developments in challenges to reverse-payment settlements. In its first decision on a pay-for-delay settlement since the Supreme Court’s seminal 2013 decision in FTC v. Actavis, the FTC took an aggressive approach to evaluating a plausible restraint on trade and analyzing proffered procompetitive benefits, reversing the ALJ who heard the case. In the Southern District of New York, an attempt by direct purchasers to plead a conspiracy arising out patent-infringement settlements without an alleged reverse payment failed. And, in the class certification context, district courts grappled with Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. These notable cases in antitrust actions concerning the pharmaceutical industry are discussed below.
In February 2019, the Second Circuit held that Connecticut’s “post-and-hold” alcohol pricing statute is not preempted by Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In September 2019, following a petition for en banc review, the Second Circuit declined to reconsider the panel’s decision. In a vigorous dissent from the decision declining en banc review, Judge Sullivan – joined by Judges Cabranes, Livingston, and Park – criticized the decision for “perpetuat[ing] a longstanding circuit split and continu[ing] to allow de facto state-sanctioned cartels of alcohol wholesalers to impose artificially high prices on consumers and retailers across all three states in our Circuit.”
Disagreeing with D.C. Circuit Colleagues, Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Would Have Rejected Challenges to Major Mergers in Antitrust Enforcement Actions
On Monday, President Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, as his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh’s most notable antitrust-related decisions in his 12 years on the federal bench include the dissents he issued in United States v. Anthem, Inc. and FTC v. Whole Foods Market, Inc. In both cases, Judge Kavanaugh disagreed with his colleagues’ decisions to block the contemplated mergers, suggesting an antitrust jurisprudence leery of excessive enforcement activity.
On March 26, 2018, the Supreme Court heard argument in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh (No. 17-432), a case in which the justices will determine whether a plaintiff whose otherwise untimely claim has been tolled by the rules articulated in American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974) and Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983) may bring a putative class action, or is limited to filing an individual claim. In American Pipe and Crown, Cork, the Supreme Court held that the filing of a class action complaint tolls the statute of limitations for persons that fall within the proposed class definition until the court denies the motion for class certification. In American Pipe, this rule rendered timely the claims of plaintiffs who sought to intervene in the pending action after the court denied class certification, 414 U.S. at 561, and in Crown, Cork, the Court held that tolling applied to plaintiffs who initiated individual actions after the district judge issued the decision denying class treatment, 462 U.S. at 354.
In late March, a district court in the Northern District of California partially granted and partially denied dueling summary judgment motions in an MDL class action—In re NCAA Athletic Grant-In-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation—challenging the National Collegiate Basketball Association’s student athlete compensation-cap rules as a violation of Section One of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Defendants—the NCAA and eleven member athletic conferences—previously reached a $208 million settlement with the consolidated plaintiffs, which the court approved in December 2017. Claims for injunctive relief remain pending, however—and, as a result of the District Court’s ruling, will proceed to a bench trial currently scheduled for December 2018. (Defendants have asked to postpone the trial until mid-2019; the court will hear argument on that motion later this month.)
AAG Delrahim on the Intersection of Antitrust and Intellectual Property Law: Strong Patent Rights Spur – Not Suppress – Competition
On March 16, 2018, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim gave a speech at the University of Pennsylvania Law School titled “The ‘New Madison’ Approach to Antitrust and Intellectual Property Law.” The speech provided insight concerning his views on the role of antitrust law in the field of intellectual property, and the Antitrust Division’s priorities under his leadership. AAG Delrahim explained four basic premises that govern how he believes antitrust enforcement should impact intellectual property law; in short, his view is that patent rights are a boon to consumers and competition and antitrust law should not stand in the way of patent-holders exercising their rights.
2017 Statute of Limitations Roundup: Courts Disagree About Applicability of “Continuing Violation” Doctrine in Antitrust Actions
2017 saw three notable decisions concerning the applicability of the “continuing violation” doctrine in antitrust cases. We discuss below three cases that have taken different approaches in their treatment of this doctrine—and have reached different conclusions regarding its applicability.
Last month, we reported on a partial settlement in an antitrust case alleging that entities within the Duke and the University of North Carolina systems agreed not to hire each other’s medical personnel unless the lateral hire involved a promotion. The Court has now granted in part the plaintiff’s motion to certify a class.
The Third Circuit recently denied a petition for rehearing en banc a panel’s earlier decision in the In re Flonase Antitrust Litigation. In that case, the panel decision addressed the degree to which class settlements can bind non-participating U.S. state class members. After vigorous briefing on the issue, the panel found that the state of Louisiana had not waived its sovereign immunity, and therefore could not be bound by a class settlement that enjoined class members from subsequently bringing separate suits. This is a case with potentially wide reaching implications, as it could impact the negotiation of settlements in class actions that include states as class members.
As the college basketball season heats up, bitter rivals Duke and the University of North Carolina stand accused of maintaining a cozier (and illegal) relationship off the court. UNC, the UNC School of Medicine, and the UNC Health Care System (together the “UNC Defendants”) recently entered into a settlement agreement with a class of individuals employed by the UNC Defendants or of Duke-affiliated defendants (“the Duke Defendants”) between 2012 and 2017 to resolve an action alleging that the Duke Defendants and UNC Defendants agreed not to hire each other’s medical personnel unless the lateral hire involved a promotion. The settlement enjoins the UNC Defendants from agreeing to refrain from soliciting, hiring, or otherwise “poaching” employees of any other company or organization.
As Germany Targets Facebook’s Data Collection, DOJ Antitrust Division Suggests Friendlier Approach to Data-Powered Digital Market Leaders
Information can be an invaluable asset. This is especially evident in the technology sector, where companies use increasingly sophisticated methods to collect, aggregate, and analyze data. Exclusive possession of data can, of course, confer significant competitive advantages—but may also prompt legal challenges from competitors or scrutiny from regulators. Authorities in France and Germany have investigations underway into whether the collection and use of consumer data by major online platforms including Facebook and Google are having anticompetitive effects. And on December 19, 2017, Germany’s competition authority—the Bundeskartellamt— informed Facebook that it “holds the view that Facebook is abusing [a dominant market position] by making the use of its social network conditional on its being allowed to limitlessly amass every kind of data generated by using third-party websites and merge it with the user’s Facebook account.”
In a 2-1 decision issued on September 7, 2017, the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court decision dismissing antirust claims brought by auto body shops against a group of car insurance companies in the In re Auto Body Shop Antitrust Litigation.
On August 29, 2017, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision dismissing a suit filed by 2012 third-party presidential candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, their running mates, their campaigns, and the parties they represented (together, “Plaintiffs”) against the Commission on Presidential Debates. Plaintiffs alleged that Johnson and Stein were improperly excluded from nationally televised general-election presidential debates in violation of the Sherman Act.
The Department of Justice Antitrust Division recently announced that California-based Custom Wristbands Inc. (d/b/a Kulayful Silicone Bracelets, Kulayful.com, Speedywristbands.com, Promotionalbands.com, Wristbandcreations.com, and 1inchbracelets.com) (“Custom Wristbands”) and its top executive Christopher Angeles agreed to plead guilty for conspiring to fix prices for wristbands and other customized novelty products sold online.
Last week Markus Meier, the Acting Director of the Bureau of Competition at the Federal Trade Commission, gave testimony to the House Judiciary Committee concerning “Antitrust Concerns and the FDA Approval Process.”
On July 28, 2017, a group of plaintiffs filed a putative class action in the Northern District of California against BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Daimler, and Mercedes-Benz, as well as auto-parts manufacturer Robert Bosch. The suit alleges that, extending as far back as 1996, these five German car manufacturers colluded to suppress competition by agreeing to limit technological advancement, selecting favored suppliers, and exchanging confidential business information. The class-action suit follows recent publications reporting that European Union antitrust officials and the German Cartel Office are investigating allegations of a cartel among these manufacturers.
In a split decision, on April 28, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to issue a permanent injunction blocking the merger of Anthem, Inc. and Cigna Corp., two of the nation’s largest health insurance providers. As we’ve previously written, in July 2016, the Department of Justice and attorneys general from multiple states sued to halt the merger pursuant to Section 7 of the Clayton Act, alleging that it would substantially lessen competition in the market for employers purchasing insurance for more than 5,000 employees ( “national accounts”) in multiple states and employers purchasing insurance for more than 50 employees (“large group employers”) in Richmond, Virginia. After a six-week bench trial, the district court enjoined the merger on the basis of its likely substantial anticompetitive effects in both markets.
In the latest development in Woodman’s Food Market v. Clorox—the saga between Clorox and Woodman’s that last year generated a landmark Robinson-Patman Act (RP Act) decision by the Seventh Circuit—Clorox is asking the district court to dismiss Woodman’s remaining Sherman Act claims. If granted, the motion would bring an end to this suit.
The Antitrust Division recently issued its 2017 annual spring update.
The update emphasizes the Division’s recent litigation victories, particularly in the merger context. In his introductory remarks, Assistant Attorney General Brett Snyder noted the Division’s litigation docket is more active—on both the civil and criminal sides—than it has been in recent years.
For the third straight legislative session, the House Judiciary Committee has voted in favor of a bill—the Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules (“SMARTER”) Act—that would amend the Clayton Act and Federal Trade Commission Act to align the standards and processes for the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) and Department of Justice’s (DOJ) review of proposed mergers and acquisitions. The SMARTER Act aims to eliminate the current differences in merger review that companies may face depending on whether the proposed merger is reviewed by the DOJ or the FTC.
As our loyal readers know, on May 23, 2016, the Second Circuit issued a decision in the In re: LIBOR-Based Financial Instruments Antitrust Litigation vacating the District Court’s prior decision dismissing one case in this consolidated action. Our analysis of that decision is available here. Notably, however, the Second Circuit declined to rule on whether the plaintiffs (the “Plaintiffs”) are “efficient enforcers” of the antitrust laws and remanded that question for the District Court’s consideration.
On June 21, 2016, the United Kingdom Competition Appeal Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) published notice of an application to commence collective proceedings under Section 47B of the UK’s competition act. If this action continues, it will be the first opt-out collective (class action) competition claims to be heard by the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
The Antitrust Division recently issued its 2016 annual spring update. Taking advantage of modern technology, Bill Baer—now the Acting Associate Attorney General serving in the DOJ’s third-highest ranking position—prepared video remarks for your viewing pleasure. (Still, most of the Division’s updates were included in written commentary.) Renata B. Hesse now serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General responsible for overseeing the Antitrust Division.
On May 23, 2016, the Second Circuit issued a long-awaited decision in the In re: LIBOR‐Based Financial Instruments Antitrust Litigation, vacating the District Court’s (Buchwald, J.) prior decision dismissing one case in this consolidated action.
Courts continue to evaluate the degree to which “reverse payments” are permitted post-Actavis. In the latest of these decisions, issued on February 22, 2016, the First Circuit held that non-cash payments may run afoul of the antitrust laws.
We’ve previously written about how the Yates Memo announced an increased focus on individual accountability, and that the DOJ’s broader focus on individual accountability would likely encourage the Antitrust Division to increase its efforts to prosecute individuals for antitrust violations.
Just over two months ago, the United States Department of Justice made waves when a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates (the “Yates Memo”) announced an increased focus on individual accountability to combat corporate misconduct. The Yates Memo explains DOJ’s view that individual accountability is important because it deters future illegal activity, incentivizes changes in corporate behavior, ensures the proper parties are held responsible for their actions, and promotes the public’s confidence in the justice system.
We recently wrote about the Second Circuit’s June 30, 2015 decision affirming Judge Denise Cote’s decision that Apple conspired with five publishing companies to raise the price of e-books. As we explained in that post, Judge Dennis Jacobs—who dissented from the opinion—wrote that he would reverse the District Court’s decision because, inter alia, its rule-of-reason analysis failed to consider Apple as a horizontal competitor of Amazon and because Apple’s conduct was “unambiguously and overwhelmingly pro-competitive” in reducing Amazon’s monopoly power in the e-book market.
On July 16, the European Court of Justice issued a decision stating that standard essential patent (“SEP”) owners that seek injunctions against companies willing to license intellectual property on fair and reasonable terms may be illegally abusing their dominance. The dispute between Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (“Huawei”) and ZTE Corp. (“ZTE”) arises from Huawei’s patent on Long Term Evolution (“LTE”), a technology that is used in mobile phones and was developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (“ETSI”).
On April 13, 2015 the Second Circuit (Hon. Walker, Raggi, Droney) heard oral argument in People of the State of New York v. Actavis PLC.
On March 29, 2015, StubHub, Inc. brought an antitrust action against the Golden State Warriors LLC (the “Warriors”) and Ticketmaster, L.L.C. (“Ticketmaster”), alleging that they monopolized the ticket resale market by forcing Warriors fans to use only secondary ticket exchange services provided by the Warriors, and excluding competing secondary ticket exchange services. The action is pending before the Honorable Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.
On December 1, 2014, we wrote about the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp., which affirmed dismissal of the vast majority of Motorola’s claims regarding LCD panels.
On December 5, 2014, the Official Journal of the European Union published the European Commission’s new directive on antitrust damages in civil actions (the “Directive”). The Directive went into effect on December 26, 2014.
We’ve previously written about the components of effective antitrust compliance programs and the potential benefits corporations may achieve by adopting them. In drafting compliance programs, however, corporations should be aware that the attorney-client privilege may not protect a compliance policy from disclosure in litigation.
The long trial in United States v. American Express has come to an end: on September 18, 2014, the parties exchanged post-trial briefing and on October 9, 2014, the court held oral argument. News reports suggest that the Court (Judge Garaufis in the Eastern District of New York) was looking for ways to avoid court intervention (including urging the parties to settle) and suggest that, if it did find an antitrust violation, the Court would consider holding additional proceedings to determine the appropriate remedies.
We have written extensively about the scope of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvement Acts and the extraterritorial reach of U.S. antitrust laws. Now, the scope of the U.S. antitrust laws has arisen in a different context: the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”).
Our regular readers know that we have been carefully following the developments in Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp., currently pending in the Seventh Circuit. The case addresses the reach of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”), and will join recent decisions issued by the Second Circuit and Ninth Circuit earlier this year.
On September 29, 2014, we asked: "Does a Compliance Program Matter to U.S. Antitrust Enforcers?" After concluding that compliance programs still provide tangible benefits, we offered five factors that companies should consider as they develop their own programs.
We’ve previously written about Motorola Mobility v. AU Optronics, currently pending in the Seventh Circuit. As many of you know, the Seventh Circuit vacated its March 2014 decision that the higher prices for mobile phones Motorola sold in the United States did not “give rise” to antitrust claims and that Motorola could not show a “direct” effect on U.S. commerce sufficient to satisfy the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”). Briefing is currently underway, and the case is scheduled for oral argument on Thursday, November 13.
Many of you will recall that on March 27, 2014, the Seventh Circuit issued a long-awaited decision concerning the scope of the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (“FTAIA”) in Motorola Mobility v. AU Optronics. The Seventh Circuit held that the higher prices for mobile phones Motorola sold in the United States did not “give rise to” its foreign subsidiaries’ antitrust claims, and that Motorola could not show a “direct” effect on U.S. commerce sufficient to satisfy the FTAIA. Just days after this opinion, Motorola asked for a rehearing. After multiple letters back and forth between the Court, the parties, and the Solicitor General’s Office, on July 1, 2014 the Seventh Circuit vacated its prior opinion. Additional briefing is now underway, and is expected to be completed in October.
As we noted earlier this month, one factor that may contribute to the increase in criminal antitrust fines over the past ten years is the Antitrust Division’s focus on anticompetitive conduct that is international in scope. Indeed, the Antitrust Division’s chart listing Sherman Act violations yielding a corporate fine of $10 million or more shows that nearly all of the investigations resulting in fines greater than $10 million are international.
Earlier this month, Israel's Antitrust Authority ("IAA") published a draft policy paper regarding public disclosures that may harm competition. The IAA cited studies that unilateral public disclosures may facilitate coordination between competitors, potentially resulting in "a forbidden restrictive arrangement."
Last week we posted a discussion concerning effective antitrust corporate compliance programs, and provided some factors that in-house counsel should consider in developing compliance programs governing employees’ communications with competitors and dealings with customers and suppliers. Today we continue that discussion by addressing the relevant factors in compliance programs concerning monopolization and dominance and price discrimination.
In June 2014, the DOJ announced that it planned to review the consent decrees with music licensing firms ASCAP and BMI. These consent decrees were initially entered in 1941; the ASCAP consent decree was last amended in 2001 and the BMI consent decree was last amended in 1994. The DOJ asked for comments concerning whether the consent decrees "need to be modified to account for changes in how music is delivered to and experienced by listeners." On August 6, ASCAP and BMI filed public comments regarding the consent decree review.
On August 8, 2014, Judge Koh denied a motion for preliminary approval of a proposed $324.5 million class action settlement with Adobe, Apple, Google, and Intel in the No-Poach litigation pending in the Northern District of California, finding that "the total settlement amount falls below the range of reasonableness" because "there is ample evidence of an overarching conspiracy" and "[c]lass members would receive an average of approximately $3,750 from the instant settlement if the Court were to grant all requested deductions and there were no further opt-outs."
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