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What to Expect from FTC’S Big Tech Merger Review

On Feb. 11, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had issued special orders to five large technology companies, requesting information on prior acquisitions completed by the companies during the past 10 years. The FTC’s announcement follows several recent high-profile events relating to technology mergers, including the FTC’s Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century and the FTC’s creation of a Technology Task Force. The key question driving the FTC’s special orders is whether nonreportable deals might warrant further investigation or challenge. The special orders present challenges and opportunities for the five companies and for other acquisitive companies that may face questions down the road. To access the full article, featured in Law360, please click here.

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FTC Challenges Axon’s Consummated Acquisition of Body-Worn Camera Competitor

The US antitrust regulators continue to challenge consummated transactions. On January 3, 2020, the FTC filed an administrative complaint against Axon Enterprise, Inc., challenging its consummated acquisition of VieVu, a body-worn camera competitor, from Safariland. The FTC also challenged non-compete agreements that Axon and Safariland signed in connection with the acquisition. The complaint demonstrates the FTC’s continued focus on challenging consummated transactions, and on defining “price discrimination markets” around sets of customers with unique needs. The FTC’s challenge also shows that merging parties should avoid signing non-compete agreements that are not reasonably limited in scope and duration. If these agreements are not appropriately tailored to achieving a legitimate business interest, the FTC may challenge them as anticompetitive. WHAT HAPPENED: In May 2018, Axon acquired VieVu from Safariland for approximately $7 million in upfront cash and...

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The Latest: Health Care Transactions Will Require Advance Notice to Washington State AG

What Happened: 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...

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THE LATEST: DOJ Announces New Model Timing Agreement for Merger Investigations

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. WHAT HAPPENED: 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...

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New FTC Interpretation Will Require HSR Act Filing for Many Hospital Affiliation Transactions

The Premerger Notification Office (PNO) of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently formalized a new position on Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR Act) reporting obligations for certain not-for-profit, non-stock transactions. The change is currently in effect and applies to transactions that have not yet closed. The change in position will require reporting of many hospital transactions that have not traditionally been treated as reportable events. The biggest area of change relates to affiliation transactions where hospitals or health systems affiliate under a new parent entity. Under its previous position, the PNO focused on whether a transaction results in a change of “control” of the board of directors of one or more of the combining entities. Under its new position, the PNO will focus on beneficial ownership–whether one party receives beneficial ownership over the assets of another party as a result of the transaction. Now, a potentially reportable...

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THE LATEST: FTC Announces New Model Timing Agreement for Merger Investigations

WHAT HAPPENED: On August 7, the FTC published a new Model Timing Agreement. Timing agreements are agreements between FTC staff and merging parties that outline the FTC’s expected timing for various events in order for it to conduct an orderly investigation during a Second Request. The FTC expects the Model Timing Agreement to be used as drafted (or in a similar form) for all transactions that receive a Second Request. The FTC has used timing agreements frequently in the past, as has the DOJ, but the FTC has now published a model, which means this is likely to become the standard practice moving forward. Parties are not required to enter into a timing agreement. However, in practicality, if parties do not agree to the timing agreement, the agency will proceed as if it must be in court to block the deal within 30 days of compliance. Therefore, it will prepare for litigation and will not consider settlement options or engage with the parties on the issues in the...

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Trump’s DOJ Challenges Merger Cleared during Waning Days of Obama Administration

WHAT HAPPENED On December 1, 2016 Parker-Hannifin agreed to acquire Clarcor for $4.3 billion. The merger agreement included a $200 million divestiture cap – that is, Parker-Hannifin was required, if necessary, to divest assets representing up to $200 million in net sales to obtain antitrust clearance. The initial antitrust waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR Act) expired on January 17, 2017. Parker-Hannifin completed the acquisition on February 28, 2017. Nearly seven months later on September 26, 2017, the DOJ filed suit in US District Court for the District of Delaware seeking to require Parker-Hannifin to divest either its or Clarcor’s aviation fuel filtration assets. The DOJ did not include in its complaint an allegation or statement that the parties increased prices. The DOJ press release indicates that the parties “failed to provide significant document or data productions in response to the department’s requests.” We believe that this...

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Flurry of Antitrust Merger Enforcement Actions as Obama Presidency Comes to a Close

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced several antitrust enforcement actions in advance of the inauguration of President Trump, including settlements for failures to file under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (HSR Act), a challenge to an unreportable deal and a settlement of a “gun-jumping” claim under the HSR Act. These cases illustrate the importance of compliance with the often complex reporting, waiting period and substantive aspects of antitrust laws in connection with acquisitions of various types, whether or not those acquisitions require premerger reporting. Failure to comply can result in significant financial penalties. Two HSR “Failure to File” Settlements. On January 17, 2017, the FTC announced two settlements for failures to submit HSR filings and observe the statutory waiting period under the HSR Act prior to consummating acquisitions that met the relevant...

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FTC Settles Allegations of HSR Act Violation by Activist Investment Fund

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement on August 24, 2015, with Third Point Funds for failing to file a notification under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act (HSR Act) in connection with the acquisition of shares in Yahoo! Inc. (Yahoo) in 2011. Third Point Funds initially did not file and observe the HSR waiting period because it believed its acquisitions were exempt under the so-called “investment-only” exemption. The settlement provides insight into how the FTC interprets the investment-only exemption, and an important reminder that the HSR Act is a procedural statute for which the lack of competitive effect has no bearing on how the FTC chooses to enforce violations of its reporting requirements. Read the full On the Subject.

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Tweet: No Antitrust Problems Here

by Lincoln Mayer The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved social media heavyweight Twitter’s $350 million stock acquisition of MoPub.  Twitter’s purchase of the mobile advertising exchange, which helps companies place ads on mobile devices, is expected to enhance Twitter’s ability to tailor mobile ads to users.  The size of the deal triggered the Hart-Scott Rodino (HSR) Act’s mandatory filing requirement, but the FTC concluded that the acquisition posed no anticompetitive obstacles. This high-profile transaction is a reminder of the value of good planning and involving antitrust counsel early in the planning process, even where the parties do not anticipate significant antitrust issues.  With enough advance warning, counsel can work with the antitrust agencies to showcase the procompetitive aspects of the transaction, mitigate any problematic aspects and seek rapid clearance of deals that, at least from a competitive standpoint, are relatively...

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