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Effecting M&A Diligence When Competitors Are Involved

Increased scrutiny of the healthcare industry from antitrust agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and US Department of Justice emphasize the necessity of compliance measures to mitigate antitrust risk that can negatively impact the closing of transactions. This article explores the critical role of clean team agreements (CTAs) in managing anti­trust risks during the due diligence process of healthcare transactions. The paper provides a comprehensive analysis of how CTAs can be structured to securely handle competitively sensitive information, ensuring that such documents are only accessed by designated personnel under strict guidelines. Through a variety of hy­pothetical scenarios, the article demonstrates the application of CTAs in situations involving direct competitors, labor competition, and different geographic markets. These examples underscore the importance of tailoring CTAs to the specific com­petitive dynamics and regulatory environments of each transaction, ensuring both legal compliance and transactional efficiency in the healthcare sector.

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New DOJ Task Force to Target ‘Multisided Giants’ in Healthcare

The US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) announcement of the formation of a new healthcare task force signals an even stronger emphasis on addressing competition issues in the healthcare industry. Large, multisided platforms involved in multiple sectors (e.g., insurance companies acquiring physician practices and/or essential healthcare IT and data services) are a key target for enforcement.

WHAT HAPPENED:

  • On May 9, 2024, the DOJ announced the formation of the Antitrust Division’s Task Force on Health Care Monopolies and Collusion (HCMC). The HCMC will be tasked with guiding and developing policy advocacy and conducting investigations – and ultimately civil and criminal enforcement actions –in healthcare markets.
  • US Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter stated that the HCMC “will identify and root out monopolies and collusive practices that increase costs, decrease quality and create single points of failure in the health care industry.” The press release specifically identified the following non-exhaustive set of issues that will be priority areas for the HCMC: payer-provider consolidation, serial acquisitions, labor, quality of care, medical billing, healthcare IT services, and the access to and misuse of healthcare data.
  • In announcing the formation of the task force at a Washington Post Live event, Kanter highlighted the changing nature of the healthcare marketplace. In what he coined the “platformization of healthcare,” patients and consumers now interact with “multisided giants, intermediaries that have a coordinated stack of businesses that flow together, including payers, including providers, including PBMs, claims processing, banks” which have become the “gatekeepers of our healthcare system.” According to Kanter, it is crucial that the Antitrust Division adapt its enforcement policies and strategies in healthcare to reflect these new market realities.
  • The HCMC will be led by Katrina Rouse, an antitrust prosecutor at the DOJ since 2011 who previously served as chief of the Defense, Industrials, and Aerospace Section and a trial attorney in the Healthcare and Consumer Products Section. Rouse will oversee a team of civil and criminal prosecutors, economists, experts in healthcare and technology, data scientists, investigators and policy advisors.

WHAT THIS MEANS:

  • The antitrust enforcement agencies have used similar task forces in the past to focus resources and accumulate subject matter expertise. For example, the DOJ’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force has been successful at investigating and pursuing government contracting cases.
  • The launch of the HCMC reflects the antitrust enforcement agencies’ increasing efforts to respond to changing dynamics in the healthcare space and address the potential harmful results of these changes on patients, healthcare workers and communities. In March 2024, the DOJ, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly launched a cross-government inquiry into the increasing role of private equity firms in healthcare transactions and whether such firms prioritize maximizing profits at the expense of healthcare quality and affordability.
  • Of note, the DOJ, rather than the FTC, typically investigates mergers involving health plans and contracting issues among health plans and providers. Therefore, healthcare industry participants, [...]

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Antitrust M&A Snapshot | Q1 2024

Topics covered in this edition:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and US Department of Justice have begun implementing the 2023 Merger Guidelines in their enforcement actions
  • During a virtual workshop, the FTC highlighted its focus on private equity (PE) acquisitions of healthcare service providers and expressed concerns about PE in healthcare
  • Artificial intelligence’s antitrust implications continue to draw FTC scrutiny
  • The European Commission (EC) used its super-simplified procedure in about one-third of all merger decisions in Q1 2024
  • EC regulators are taking an increasingly vigilant approach to merger control review to ensure market dynamics remain pro-competitive and pro-consumer

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What California’s DOJ Said at the 2024 Antitrust Law Section Spring Meeting

The American Bar Association Antitrust Law Section’s annual Spring Meeting earlier this month featured federal, state and international enforcers discussing a variety of antitrust and competition issues across jurisdictions. Paula Blizzard, the California Department of Justice’s antitrust chief, provided insights into the California attorney general office’s current and upcoming enforcement activities.

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Blocked JetBlue-Spirit Deal Illustrates New Antitrust Approach

As reflected in the December 2023 merger guidelines, the Federal Trade Commission and the US Department of Justice have changed the way they think about out-of-market effects, i.e., competitive effects that arise outside the relevant market.

In this Law360 article, Lisa Rumin and Anthony Ferrara unpack this new approach, which was prominently demonstrated during the JetBlue Airways-Spirit Airlines merger, and provide practical considerations on the implications for firms contemplating mergers and acquisitions.

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Heard at the 2024 Antitrust Law Section Spring Meeting: Part II

The American Bar Association Antitrust Law Section’s annual Spring Meeting concluded on April 12. The annual Spring Meeting featured updates from federal, state and international antitrust enforcers and extensive discussion on priority antitrust issues affecting various industries. In this article, we highlight takeaways from the final two days of the Spring Meeting.

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Heard at the 2024 Antitrust Law Section Spring Meeting: Part I

The American Bar Association Antitrust Law Section’s annual Spring Meeting is underway in Washington, DC. The annual Spring Meeting features updates from federal, state and international antitrust enforcers and extensive discussion on priority antitrust issues affecting various industries. In this article, we highlight the key takeaways from the first portion of the Spring Meeting.

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Google Moves to Dismiss Third Complaint Alleging Tying of Google Maps API Services

BACKGROUND Google LLC and Alphabet Inc. (Google) moved to dismiss a third successive complaint that alleged it tied the sales of Maps, Routes and Places application programming interface (API) services to one another. A basic tying claim involves a seller leveraging its market power in one product (the “tying” product) to force sales and gain market share over a different product (the “tied” product). Following the dismissal of an initial complaint filed in 2022, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint alleging Google created a “three-way” tying arrangement by conditioning the sale of one API service (e.g., Maps) on the required purchase of the two other services (e.g., Routes and Places) through its contractual terms of service. The plaintiffs alleged that the tying product could be any of the three APIs and that Google had market power in all three. Whichever plaintiffs bought first was the tying product, and the other two were tied products – allegedly locked in by forced sale or prohibition on use of competitor APIs as a condition of the first sale. The court granted Google’s motion to dismiss because the plaintiffs did not explain how a product could be both a tying product (requiring market power) and the tied product (lacking market power) depending simply on the order of the sales. In their second amended complaint, the plaintiffs abandoned the three-way tying claim, instead bringing a basic tying claim with Maps as the tying product and Routes and Places as the tied products. Google has again moved to dismiss the complaint. THE DETAILS

  • Maps, Routes and Places APIs are interrelated but separately licensed services that appear alongside each other in mapping applications like Google Maps.
  • In response to the first amended complaint, Google argued that the plaintiffs did not explain how a product could be both a tying and a tied product depending on the order of sale, given the inherent conflicts in market power required of each.
  • Google also argued that it had broad rights to dictate the terms of use and display of its mapping services, including a right to protect and control user experience through restricting use of its mapping API services in conjunction with or in proximity to non-Google mapping API services, relying in part on a case called Sambreel. 906 F. Supp. 2d at 1073 (S.D. Cal. 2012).
  • The US Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) intervened, filing a Statement of Interest urging the court to reject Google’s interpretation of Sambreel as establishing an “unqualified right” over the use and display of its services. The DOJ did not take a position on whether the claim should survive otherwise.
  • The court agreed with the DOJ, holding that Google’s interpretation of “control” is too broad and could justify any tying arrangement as an exercise of a supplier’s right to determine or dictate the terms on which its product or service was used.
  • The court also found that the plaintiffs failed to explain how a product could be either a tying [...]

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Antitrust M&A Snapshot | Q4 2023

Topics covered in this edition:

  • New Merger Guidelines Released
  • FTC Focused on Pharmaceutical Companies
  • FTC Targets “Moat-Building” Mergers
  • Fifth Circuit Fuels FTC’s Vertical Mergers Agenda
  • FTC Losing Streak Reverses During the Fourth Quarter
  • Ex post Review in the Merger Control Sphere Occurring More and More Frequently

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The Fix Is In – Key Learnings From Recent Vertical Merger Challenges

Vertical mergers are inherently more difficult for the government to litigate than horizonal mergers. After not litigating a vertical merger case since the 1970s, the Federal Trade Commission and the US Department of Justice have recently tried several matters.

In this Westlaw Today article, Jon Dubrow, Stephen Wu, Matt Evola and Bailey Sanders discuss key insights from these cases and provide useful guidance for companies contemplating such transactions.

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