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Advocate General Wahl Delivers Opinion on Legality of Bans on Online Sales via Third-Party Platforms in Selective Distribution Systems

According to Advocate General Nils Wahl’s opinion, delivered on July 26, in the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) case Coty Germany GmbH v Parfümerie Akzente GmbH (case C-230/16), suppliers of luxury goods may prohibit their authorized retailers from selling their goods via third-party internet platforms. Such bans do not necessarily infringe Article 101(1) of the Treaty of Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (which prohibits anticompetitive agreements). Background of the Case On July 16, 2016, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt lodged a request for a preliminary ruling with the CJEU asking whether selective distribution systems that serve to ensure a “luxury image” for the goods constitute an aspect of competition that is compatible with Article 101(1) TFEU and, whether bans on sales via third-party internet platforms constitute a restriction “by object” and should be viewed as “hardcore restrictions” under the Commission’s Vertical...

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THE LATEST: Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Antitrust Counterclaim against Labor Union Clarifying Scope of Noerr-Pennington Doctrine and the Implied Labor Exemption

On July 24, 2017, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an antitrust counterclaim brought by ICTSI Oregon, Inc. (ICTSI), the operator of a marine shipping facility, against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). ILWU is a labor union that represents many ICTSI employees, including longshoremen and mechanics. PMA is a multi-employer collective bargaining association covering the West Coast of the United States, which represents employers, including ICTSI, in negotiations with labor unions. The opinion elucidates the current law surrounding the scope of Noerr-Pennington immunity and the implied labor exemption to antitrust liability. WHAT HAPPENED ICTSI’s antitrust counterclaim arose out of a labor dispute concerning ILWU’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with PMA, which required that all “reefer work” (i.e., plugging, unplugging and monitoring refrigerated...

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THE LATEST: Federal Judge Blocks Merger of Nuclear Waste Disposal Companies Rejecting “Failing Firm” Defense

On June 21, 2017, US District Judge Sue L. Robinson blocked EnergySolutions, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS), applying a strict standard for the “failing firm” defense to a merger challenge. The parties compete in the disposal of low level radioactive waste (LLRW). WCS had argued that it would be forced to exit the market due to heavy operating losses if the transaction were not approved. Judge Robinson’s recently released opinion provides insights into how aggressively a putative failing firm must shop its assets to third parties before it can qualify for the failing firm defense to an otherwise anticompetitive merger. WHAT HAPPENED: The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit in November 2016 to enjoin the proposed acquisition of WCS by EnergySolutions, arguing that the merger would lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the LLRW disposal industry. DOJ alleged that EnergySolutions and WCS are the only...

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FTC and Pennsylvania Attorney General Challenge Health System Combination

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Pennsylvania Attorney General (AG) have challenged the proposed combination of The Penn State Hershey Medical Center (Hershey) and PinnacleHealth System (Pinnacle) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The FTC complaint alleges that the combination would create a dominant provider, reduce the number of competing health systems in the area from three to two, and result in a 64 percent share of the market for general acute care inpatient hospital services. Hospitals and health systems pursuing mergers with a competitor should be mindful of the antitrust enforcement climate in health care and incorporate antitrust due diligence into their early transaction planning. Moreover, this case highlights that providers seeking to proactively alleviate the potential anticompetitive effects of a transaction should anticipate continued skepticism by the FTC of claims of procompetitive efficiencies and its dismissal of the merging parties’...

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FTC Consent Agreement with Par Petroleum Demonstrates Increased Agency Focus on Competitive Effects

On March 18, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered Par Petroleum Corporation to terminate its storage and throughput rights at a key gasoline terminal in Hawaii. This action will settle FTC charges seeking to prevent Par’s acquisition of Koko’oha Investments, Inc. Notably, the market structure created as a result of this remedy mirrors a market structure that was deemed anticompetitive in a 2005 FTC action. The two differing approaches to the same market highlight a key trend in the FTC’s merger enforcement: the focus on competitive effects of a transaction, as opposed to the resulting market structure. The Market for Hawaii-Grade Gasoline Blendstock The allegedly anticompetitive transaction affects the market for Hawaii-grade gasoline blendstock. Gasoline blendstock is produced by refining crude oil and is later combined with ethanol to make finished gasoline. The finished gasoline is sold to Hawaiian consumers. Prior to the transaction, there...

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European Commission Considers Taking Over Cartel Investigations to Prevent Exploitation of German Law Loophole

by Martina Maier and Philipp Werner Under German law, companies may escape cartel fines by undertaking an internal restructuring.  The German competition authority has indicated a willingness to reallocate such cases to the European Commission, which can impose a fine on the corporate group regardless of any internal restructuring.  Commission officials speaking at a conference have suggested recently that the Commission would be willing to take over cartel cases from EU Member States, even at a late stage in the proceedings, in order to fine undertakings for their anti-competitive behaviour. To read the full article, click here.

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Antitrust Inspections in The Energy Exchange Market

by David Henry and Philipp Werner On February 7, the European Commission (EC) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority conducted unannounced inspections in the energy exchange market.  Representatives of Nord Pool Spot (Lysaker, Norway) and EPEX Spot (Paris, France and Leipzig, Germany) announced that the companies were subject to inspections.  It is not known whether other companies were also raided.  The inspections show that the EC’s enforcement policy extends beyond the retail level of the energy sector. To read the full article, click here.

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