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DOJ Consent Decree Changes Reduce Room for Error

WHAT HAPPENED The Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) implemented new provisions in merger consent decrees that: Make it easier for DOJ to prove violations of a consent decree and hold parties in contempt; Allow DOJ to apply for an extension of the decree’s term if the court finds a violation; and Shift DOJ’s attorneys’ fees and costs for successful enforcement onto the parties. DOJ has implemented these provisions in four decrees to date1, and has communicated that it will require the same in future decrees. WHAT THIS MEANS For merger decrees, by reducing its burden of proof for decree violations, DOJ is shifting additional risk to parties for divestitures that do not go as planned. Willfulness is not a required element of civil contempt2, so the change to the burden of proof is significant. Parties will need to be sure to commit to realistic divestiture timelines and asset packages that will not present undue implementation challenges. For...

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Beware of “Gun Jumping”: EU Court Upholds EUR 20 Million Fine Imposed On Norwegian Seafood Company

Between 2012 and 2013, Marine Harvest ASA (“Marine Harvest”), a Norwegian seafood company, acquired Morpol ASA (“Morpol”), a Norwegian producer and processor of salmon. Marine Harvest notified the transaction to the European Commission under the European Union’s Merger Regulation (“EUMR”), but implemented it prior to the European Commission having granted clearance. In 2014, the European Commission imposed a EUR 20 million fine on Marine Harvest for “jumping the gun”. On 26 October 2017, the General Court of the European Union (“General Court”) confirmed the European Commission’s decision (“Decision”). WHAT HAPPENED: On 14 December 2012, Marine Harvest entered into a share and purchase agreement (“SPA”) with companies owned by Jerzy Malek, the founder and former CEO of Morpol. Under the SPA, Marine Harvest acquired 48.5% of the shares in Morpol (“Initial Transaction”). The Initial Transaction was closed on 18 December 2012. On 15 January 2013, Marine Harvest...

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Five Things To Know About German Merger Control

As reported previously, German competition law was recently amended. The amendments included with the introduction of a “size of transaction”-threshold a notable change with respect to German merger control. The following is a reminder of five important features of German merger control which you should be aware of: The jurisdictional thresholds of German merger control are easily triggered German merger control applies if the parties to a transaction (usually the acquirer and the target) exceeded, in the last financial year, certain turnover thresholds. In an interna­tional context, these thresholds are relatively low and easily triggered: Joint worldwide turnover of all parties > € 500 million, and German turnover of at least one party > € 25 million, and German turnover of another party > € 5 million. There is a new “size of transaction”-threshold Since June 2017, German merger control can also be triggered if a newly introduced “size of...

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THE LATEST: Entanglements and Concentrated Markets Require Divestiture in the Dairy Industry

On July 6, 2016, Danone S.A. (Danone) agreed to acquire The WhiteWave Foods Company (WhiteWave) for $12.5 billion. WhiteWave is the leading manufacturer of fluid organic milk in the United States and one of the top purchasers of raw organic milk. Danone is the leading US manufacturer of organic yogurt (Stonyfield). Nearly 90 percent of the raw organic milk used by Danone to manufacture organic yogurt is supplied via a strategic agreement by CROPP Cooperative (CROPP). As of 2009, the strategic supply agreement between Danone and CROPP also includes Danone providing CROPP with an exclusive license for the production and sale of Stonyfield branded fluid organic milk. WhiteWave and CROPP are the two largest purchasers and top competitors for purchasing raw organic milk from farmers in the Northeast US. Additionally, WhiteWave, CROPP and Danone-CROPP are the only nationwide competitors for the sale of fluid organic milk to retailers and have a 91 percent share of...

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German Regulator Steps Up Enforcement of Merger Standstill Obligation

by Martina Maier and Philipp Werner The majority of merger control regimes around the world impose standstill or waiting period requirements for notifiable transactions, e.g. the US, the EU and most EU Member States. If a transaction meets the filing thresholds, it must be notified to the competent antitrust regulator and must not be closed without prior approval by the antitrust regulator or the expiration of the applicable waiting period. Under German merger control rules, a notifiable merger must not be implemented without prior clearance decision. An infringement of the standstill obligation can (theoretically) lead to fines of up to 10 percent of the group's worldwide turnover. In addition, the infringement of the standstill obligation renders the contracts ineffective under German merger control rules. The German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has recently taken a stricter approach to the enforcement of the merger standstill obligation. In the past, the...

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Be Aware of the EU Watch Dog:  Commission Blocks Merger Between Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air

by Martina Maier and Philipp Werner In January 2011, the European Commission decided that the proposed merger between Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air should be prohibited because it would have resulted in a quasi-monopoly on the domestic Greek air transport market.  This decision shows that traditional airline merger remedies, such as slot releases, are sometimes insufficient to allay concerns of monopolization.  It also illustrates that the Commission will take a tough stance on competition policy, even when facing strong political pressure to clear the merger for the sake of the economy. To read the full article here, click here. 

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Market Definition Spurs District Court’s Decision Denying Product Ownership Challenge

by Jon B. Dubrow, David Marx, Jr. and Rachael Lewis The Federal District Court in Minnesota recently decided Ovation Pharmaceutical did not violate federal or state antitrust laws when it acquired Indocin IV and NeoProfen, the only two drugs approved for treatment of a specific heart condition that primarily affects premature babies, because the challengers failed to establish that the drugs were in the same product market.  The decision raises significant issues to consider when evaluating antitrust risks in future transactions. To read the full article, please visit: http://www.mwe.com/info/news/ots0910i.htm.  

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