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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 Trade Commission and State Attorney General Seek to Block a Health System’s Physician Group Acquisition

With its latest lawsuit to block an acquisition of physicians, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confirmed last week that monitoring physician consolidation is a priority. The FTC and North Dakota Attorney General sued to block the proposed acquisition by a health system (Sanford Health) of Mid-Dakota Clinic (MDC), which both serve the areas of Bismarck and Mandan, North Dakota. The deal would allegedly create very high market shares in several physician service markets. WHAT HAPPENED Sanford Health is a vertically integrated health system, which operates a general acute care hospital in Bismarck and clinics providing primary care and specialty services. Sanford employs approximately 160 physicians who work in Bismarck or Mandan. MDC is a multispecialty medical practice employing 61 physicians who provide services in Bismarck. Concurrent with its sealed federal complaint to preliminarily enjoin the deal, the FTC filed an administrative complaint that alleges...

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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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Aerospace and Defense Series: Trump Administration—Potential for Increased Antitrust Leniency for Vertical Transactions in the Defense Industry

President-elect Donald Trump has called for a dramatic increase in defense spending including purchases of new ships and warplanes as well as the addition of tens of thousands of new troops. This increase in spending generally bodes well for the aerospace and defense industry and potentially signals a new era of growth for companies in this space. This article examines how M&A transactions are likely to be reviewed in a Trump administration, with particular focus on “vertical” transactions. Read "Trump Administration—Potential for Increased Antitrust Leniency for Vertical Transactions in the Defense Industry"

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FTC Emphasizes Competitive Issues Arising From Partial Interest Acquisitions

On May 9, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) posted an article summarizing recent developments and areas of competitive sensitivity in the acquisition of partial equity interests.  Most antitrust challenges to mergers or acquisitions involve situations in which an acquiror takes control of the target company.  However, substantive antitrust issues also can arise from acquisitions of less than controlling interests.  The FTC has previously sought substantial remedies in acquisitions of minority interests in a competitor.  These remedies have included imposing firewalls, altering companies’ ownership interests to become passive investors, or seeking divestitures. The FTC’s post, which can be found here, outlines three ways in which partial-interest acquisitions in a competitor could lessen competition.  First, an entity could use its interest—through representatives on a competitor’s board, for example—to affect decisions of the target.  Second, an acquiring...

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