For the first time since the Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) published non-horizontal merger guidelines in 1984, the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued updated Vertical Merger Guidelines to explain how the antitrust agencies analyze vertical mergers. The guidelines were published in draft on January 10, 2020, and are now open for a
Gregory (Greg) E. Heltzer focuses his practice on defending mergers and acquisitions before the US Federal Trade Commission, US Department of Justice, state antitrust authorities and foreign competition authorities. Greg has extensive experience in evaluating whether potential transactions will be cleared by antitrust enforcers and developing a viable path for clearance. In addition, he handles complex antitrust litigation, government investigations and antitrust counseling. Read Greg Heltzer's full bio.
- On September 4, 2019, the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) sued to block Novelis Inc.’s proposed $2.6 billion acquisition of Aleris Corporation.
- DOJ alleged that the transaction would combine two of only four North American producers of aluminum auto body sheet (ABS). DOJ further alleged that Aleris was a new and disruptive rival supplier of aluminum ABS whose expansion into the North American market immediately impacted pricing.
- Prior to DOJ’s suit to block the transaction, the merging parties and DOJ agreed that the dispute boiled down to a single dispositive issue: whether aluminum ABS constitutes a relevant product market, and specifically, whether the market for aluminum ABS also includes steel ABS.
- DOJ and the merging parties agreed to refer this product market issue to arbitration pursuant to the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 (5 U.S.C. § 571 et seq.) and the Antitrust Division’s implementing regulations (61 Fed. Reg. 36,896 (July 15, 1996).
- In a filing in federal court the DOJ explained that it decided to arbitrate rather than litigate the merger in federal court because all sides agreed that the case turned on the single question of product market definition and referring the matter to arbitration would lessen the burden on the Court and reduce litigation costs to the merging parties and to the United States.
- DTE and Enbridge’s natural gas pipeline joint venture, Nexus, agreed to purchase the Generation Pipeline (Generation).
- Generation was owned by a group of sellers including North Coast Gas Transmission (North Coast).
- Generation’s primary asset is a 23-mile pipeline that serves the Toledo, Ohio, area.
- North Coast continues to own a competing pipeline near Toledo, Ohio.
- The purchase agreement contained a non-compete provision that prevented the sellers, including North Coast, from competing in three counties surrounding Toledo, Ohio, for three years.
- After an investigation, the FTC announced a settlement with DTE, Enbridge and Nexus to remedy the FTC’s concern with the non-compete provision by requiring the purchase agreement to be amended to remove the non-compete provision.
- The FTC Commissioners were unanimous in their conclusion that the challenged non-compete was unlawfully broad, though several Commissioners issued concurring statements regarding the import of the FTC’s action in this case.
- On May 7, 2019, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State signed House Bill 1607 into law. The law goes into effect for transactions closing after January 1, 2020, and requires advance notice to the Washington Attorney General (AG) of certain transactions 60 days in advance of closing the transaction. The intent of the law is “to ensure that competition beneficial to consumers in health care markets across Washington remains vigorous and robust[.]”
- Parties must file written notice with the AG for any deal that involves two or more hospitals, hospital systems, or other provider organizations that represent seven or more health care providers in contracting with insurance companies or third-party administrators. A “provider” includes a physician, nurse, medical assistant, therapist, midwife, athletic trainer, home care aide, massage therapist, among others.
- The law can apply to transactions involving very small medical groups, as long as there are seven providers who contract with insurance providers. The law can also apply to transactions with non-Washington parties if the out-of-state party generates $10 million or more in revenue from Washington patients.
- Given the relatively low thresholds for an AG filing, this law would require notifications for transactions that are not reportable under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR Act), as well as those that are reportable under the HSR Act.
- If a transaction is HSR reportable, the parties must submit their HSR filing to the AG.
- If a transaction is not HSR reportable, parties must submit the following information in writing to the AG:
- The names and addresses of the parties;
- The locations where health care services are provided by each party;
- A brief description of the nature and purpose of the proposed transaction; and
- The anticipated effective date of the transaction.
- The notification requirement applies to mergers, acquisitions and contracting affiliations. A contracting affiliation is a “formation of a relationship between two or more entities that permits the entities to negotiate jointly with carriers or third-party administrators over rates for professional medical services” but does not include arrangements among entities under common ownership.
- The penalty for noncompliance is $200 per day.
- The AG has 30 days from the date of notice to submit a request to the parties for additional information. If the AG has antitrust concerns, it may serve a civil investigative demand to investigate.
The US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Competition announced the launch of a new Technology Task Force that will investigate anticompetitive conduct, review past transactions, as well as contribute to pending merger reviews. The FTC’s investigation of consummated transactions will not be limited to large transactions that meet the HSR filing thresholds, but will…
On January 31, the Board of the Mexican Competition Authority—the Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE)—approved REMY Holdings International’s acquisition of BorgWarner’s vehicle aftermarket business. However, the companies failed to file and were fined for their misconduct (~$153,134). The fine was less severe because the parties voluntarily acknowledged their failure to notify COFECE.
The US Federal Trade Commission recently announced increased thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 and for determining whether parties trigger the prohibition against interlocking directors under Section 8 of the Clayton Act.
Notification Threshold Adjustments
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced revised thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976…
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) submitted comments supporting the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidance for assessing whether a pharmaceutical company petitioner is misusing the citizen petition process to delay approval of a competing drug.
- The FDA released revised draft guidance intended to discourage pharmaceutical companies from gaming the citizen petition process.
Consistent with Assistant Attorney General Delrahim’s speech on September 25, 2018, the DOJ released a new Model Timing Agreement which sets out that it will require fewer custodians, take fewer depositions, and commit to a shorter overall review period in exchange for the provision of detailed information from the merging parties earlier in the Second Request process than has previously been required.
- In November, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) published a new Model Timing Agreement (the Model) much like the FTC’s model published earlier this year. Timing agreements are agreements between agency staff and merging parties that outline expected timing for various events (g., production of documents and data, timeline for depositions and front-office meetings if needed) and help provide clarity for the agencies to conduct an orderly investigation during a Second Request.
- By providing this Model, the DOJ is signaling that it wants certainty on timing during its Second Request reviews and that this Model is a fast way for the parties and the DOJ to come to agreement on these issues.
- Some highlights of the DOJ Model include:
- Parties must wait 60 days after substantial compliance to consummate transactions and give 10 days’ notice prior to closing.
- The Model limits the number of custodians to 20 per party and depositions to 12 per party, except in extenuating circumstances.
- The Model reserves the DOJ’s ability to add 5 more custodians at any time prior to filing a complaint, with the requirement that parties must produce those individual’s responsive documents within 15 days or the agreed timing will be tolled.
- For document productions, depending on production method (technology assisted review or linear review), all responsive, non-privileged documents must be produced approximately 30-45 days before substantial compliance. Production of potentially privileged documents ultimately deemed not privileged must be produced approximately 10-25 days before the substantial compliance certification date.
- Most data productions are required 30-45 days before substantial compliance.
- The FTC posted a short article indicating that after finalizing a settlement package with FTC Staff, it takes approximately four weeks for the Directors of the Bureau of Competition and the Bureau of Economics (the Directors), as well as the Commission to review the Directors’ recommendations and vote on the package.
- The FTC