Joint Ventures/Competitor Collaboration
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Out of Bounds: Sports Agencies Flagged for Anticompetitive Bidding Agreements

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently sued former joint venture partners because they allegedly coordinated their competitive activities beyond the legitimate scope of their venture. This case illustrates several important points. First, companies who collaborate through joint ventures and similar arrangements need to be mindful that any legitimate collaborative activity does not “spill over” to restrain competition in other unrelated areas. Second, DOJ discovered the conduct during its review of documents produced in connection with a merger investigation. This is the most recent reminder of how broad ranging discovery in merger investigations can result in wholly unrelated conduct investigations and lawsuits. Third, one of the parties was a portfolio company of a private equity sponsor, highlighting how private investors can be targeted for antitrust violations. WHAT HAPPENED: On February 14, IMG College, Learfield Communications, LLC, and A-L Tier I...

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Antitrust M&A Snapshot: July – December 2017 Update

United States: July – December 2017 Update Although delays in antitrust appointments continued throughout the second half of 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) continued to actively investigate and challenge mergers and acquisitions. Notably, the DOJ challenged the vertical AT&T/Time Warner transaction, the first vertical merger the DOJ has tried since the 1970s. The end of 2017 showed a trend where the FTC and DOJ are focusing on structural remedies rather than behavioral remedies. Additionally, at the end of 2017, the FTC and DOJ challenged several consummated transactions, as well as transactions that were not reportable under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. European Union: July – December 2017 Update After two concentrations within the agrochemicals sector in the second quarter of 2017 — Dow/DuPont and ChemChina/Syngenta — the European Commission continued to see megamergers notifications in the...

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Three Things To Know About French Merger Control

Jurisdictional thresholds French merger control applies if the turnovers of the parties to a transaction (usually the acquirer(s) including its (their) group(s) of companies, and the target) exceeded, in the last financial year, certain (cumulative) thresholds provided in Article L. 430-2, I of the French Commercial Code (the “Code”): Combined worldwide pre-tax turnover of all concerned parties > €150 million; and French turnover achieved by at least two parties individually > €50 million euros; and The transaction is not caught by the EU Merger Regulation. Specific (and lower) thresholds exist for mergers in the retail sector or in French overseas departments or communities[1]. In the situation of an acquisition of joint control, a transaction can be notifiable where each of the acquirers meets the thresholds even if the target has no presence or turnover in France. There is no exception applicable to foreign-to-foreign transactions. Acquisitions of...

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Significant Fine Imposed by the French Competition Authority in Floor Coverings Cartel

On October 19, 2017, the French Competition Authority (the “FCA”) imposed a EUR 302 million fine on the three leading companies in the PVC and linoleum floor coverings sector; Forbo, Gerflor and Tarkett, as well as the industry’s trade association, SFEC (Syndicat Français des Enducteurs Calandreurs et Fabricants de Revêtements de Sols et Murs), for price-fixing, sharing commercially sensitive information, and signing a non-compete agreement relating to environmental performance advertising. The FCA said the significant fine reflected the gravity of the offence and the long duration of the anticompetitive behavior, which for one company lasted 23 years. WHAT HAPPENED The proceedings were originally initiated by unannounced inspections carried out in the floor coverings industry in 2013 by the FCA, acting on information submitted by the DGCCRF (Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control), which resulted in the discovery of...

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Joint FTC / DOJ Guidance: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Businesses and individuals in Texas, Florida, the Southeast, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are preparing for a massive recovery and reconstruction effort in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued antitrust guidance that reiterates key principles of permissible and impermissible competitor collaboration and provides useful examples related to disaster recovery. As before, the DOJ will criminally prosecute businesses involved in naked price-fixing, bid-rigging, or market-allocation agreements. The FTC and DOJ will investigate and take action against civil violations of the antitrust laws. At the same time, the federal antitrust laws are sufficiently flexible to allow pro-competitive collaborations that benefit consumers as set forth in the FTC/DOJ Antitrust Guidelines for Collaborations Among Competitors. Joint ventures and other collaborations can...

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THE LATEST: European Court of Justice Clarifies Application of European Union Merger Control Rules to Joint Ventures

On 7 September 2017, the European Court of Justice issued a decision (Decision) on the interpretation of the European Union Merger Regulation (EUMR). The Decision clarifies the conditions under which the EUMR applies to the setting-up of joint venture companies. WHAT HAPPENED: 3(4) of the EUMR stipulates that the “creation” of joint ventures requires a notification only if the joint venture “performs the functions of an autonomous economic entity” (Full-Function JV). Companies with management dedicated to its day-to-day operations, as well as access to sufficient resources including staff, finance and assets usually qualify as Full-Function JV. If the joint venture has only one specific function for the parent companies (e.g. supplying input products or services), and has no or only very limited own resources, it is unlikely to be considered a Full-Function JV. There has been considerable uncertainty whether Art. 3(4) EUMR applies only to the creation of a...

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THE LATEST: FTC Settles with Breeder Trade Association over Association Rules That Limited Price Competition for Dairy Bull Semen

The two current commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved another final order and consent agreement with a trade association, this time with the National Association of Animal Breeders, Inc. (NAAB). WHAT HAPPENED: NAAB is a non-profit corporation of approximately 24 member businesses that compete to sell dairy cattle semen to US dairy farms for artificial insemination of dairy cows. Together, the NAAB membership accounts for more than 90 percent of sales to US farms. In 2006, NAAB entered into an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop genomic testing of dairy bulls to predict a bull’s ability to pass along commercially important traits to its daughters, like high milk yield. The new technology, called Genomic Predicted Transmitting Ability (GPTA) was developed by mid-2008. In late 2008, NAAB implemented rules limiting access to the GPTA technology. Specifically, (1) only a NAAB member could obtain a...

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THE LATEST: Rate-for-Volume Payer Contract Provision Should Be Analyzed under Rule of Reason

District Judge Walter H. Rice of the Southern District of Ohio granted three pretrial motions brought by the Defendants on the eve of trial in The Medical Center at Elizabeth Place, LLC v. Premier Health Partners, et al., Case No. 3:12-cv-26, 2017 WL 3433131 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 9, 2017), and denied as moot eleven remaining pretrial motions. Judge Rice dismissed the entire case with prejudice because he ruled the contracts that Plaintiff, a competitor hospital, challenged should be analyzed under the rule of reason, but Plaintiff had failed to plead a rule of reason case. Plaintiff’s decision not to do so doomed the case to failure. WHAT HAPPENED: Judge Rice’s key decision related to the Defendants’ pretrial challenge of District Judge Black’s (who was previously assigned to the case) order holding that the per se rule applied. The Defendants include four hospital systems in the Dayton, Ohio area that formed the Premier joint venture. The hospitals “are owned,...

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Antitrust M&A Snapshot: April – June 2017 Update

McDermott’s Antitrust M&A Snapshot is a resource for in-house counsel and others who deal with antitrust M&A issues but are not faced with these issues on a daily basis. In each quarterly issue, we will provide concise summaries of Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Justice (DOJ) and European Commission (EC) news and events related to M&A, including significant ongoing investigations, trials and consent orders, as well as analysis on the trends we see developing in the antitrust review process. Read the full report here.

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THE LATEST: DOJ Price-Fixing Probe Demonstrates That Deal Risk Is Not the Only Antitrust Concern Merging Parties Should Keep in Mind

Bumble Bee Foods, and two of its senior vice presidents, have recently pled guilty to US Department of Justice (DOJ) charges that they engaged in a conspiracy to fix prices of shelf-stable tuna fish sold in the United States from 2011 to 2013. Bumble Bee agreed to pay a $25 million criminal fine that can increase to $81.5 million under certain conditions, and the company’s two senior vice presidents pled guilty and agreed to pay criminal fines as well. The investigation appears to have been prompted by information that the DOJ uncovered during its investigation of Thai Union Group’s (owner of Chicken of the Sea) proposed acquisition of Bumble Bee, which was abandoned after DOJ concerns. WHAT HAPPENED: On December 19, 2014, Thai Union Group, the largest global producer of shelf-stable tuna, announced that it had agreed to acquire Bumble Bee Foods for $1.5 billion. A year later, on December 3, 2015, the DOJ announced that the parties had abandoned the...

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