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DOJ Announces Procedural Reforms Seeking to Resolve Merger Investigations within 6 Months of Filing

Today, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim announced a series of reforms with the express goal to resolve most merger investigations within six months of filing. The reforms seek to place the burden of faster reviews not only on the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), but also on the merging parties. The DOJ will require fewer custodians, take fewer depositions, and commit to shorter time-periods in exchange for merging parties providing detailed information to the DOJ early in the investigation in some cases before a Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) filing is made. AAG Delrahim believes that merging parties need to avoid “hid[ing] the eight ball” and work with the DOJ in good faith to remedy transactions that raise competitive concerns. By announcing these reforms, the DOJ acknowledges that merger reviews are taking longer in recent years. AAG Delrahim cited a recent report noting that the length of merger reviews has increased 65 percent...

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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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THE LATEST: Collateral Risk in Merger Reviews

WHAT HAPPENED The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently investigating whether advertising sales teams for competing television station owners engaged in anticompetitive conduct regarding communications on performance levels. Per the Journal’s reporting: DOJ is investigating whether the purported communications led to higher rates for television commercials. DOJ’s industry-wide investigation developed from its review of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s (Sinclair) proposed acquisition of Tribune Media (Tribune). As part of the DOJ’s merger review, Sinclair and Tribune received a “Second Request.” Responding to a Second Request typically involves the production of a wide range of company documents regarding competition in the industry under investigation. Many times in the past, merging parties’ Second Request responses have led to separate anticompetitive conduct cases. A few notable examples are...

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The LATEST: FTC “Second Requests” to be Narrower in Scope under Ohlhausen’s Leadership

Transactions that meet the Hart-Scott-Rodino thresholds for notification must be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Department of Justice. Where a notified transaction raises competition concerns, the reviewing agency may decide to launch an in-depth investigation and request additional information from the merging parties, known as a “Second Request,” which can take several months and cost companies millions of dollars to fully respond. Under FTC Acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen’s leadership, however, the burden of a Second Request may decrease, as she intends to narrow their scope. WHAT HAPPENED: Acting Chairwoman Ohlhausen has signaled that Second Requests will be more limited under her leadership, based on comments made on February 15, 2017 at a Washington conference. The standard for initiating a Second Request will not change. However, once initiated, Second Requests will be narrower in scope, in terms of markets assessed and data...

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Has Antitrust Enforcement Been ‘Reinvigorated’ Under Obama?

In the 2008 presidential election campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to “reinvigorate” antitrust enforcement. Over the last few years, several observers have concluded that the Obama administration’s antitrust record is not substantially different from that of his predecessor. Conventional wisdom suggests that antitrust enforcement is non-partisan. Some key statistics bear out this conclusion, but a comparative review of the data in Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Annual Reports published jointly by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), including the recently issued fiscal year 2014 report, reveals some significant differences in antitrust enforcement during the Obama administration. Analyzing the first six years of each administration reveals some superficial differences, but also significant continuity. Between 2001 and 2006, the agencies received a total of 9080 HSR filings; in 2009–2014 they received only 7530...

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ABA Panel Tackles Meeting M&A Client Expectations

Recently the American Bar Association Section of International Law in partnership with the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) held a conference entitled “Successful Transactions – What In-House Counsel Expect from their M&A and Antitrust Attorneys.”  The conference provided parallel tracks in M&A and Antitrust with the focus of providing attendees a better  understanding of issues in-house counsel face during an M&A transaction. The opening session focused on the importance of project management.  The panel consisted of outside counsel, in-house counsel and a consultant.  The session started with the notion that clients find that outside counsel generally fall short on project management during M&A transactions.  According to the panel, the key to project management is to manage and set realistic client expectations at the outset of any transaction.  To provide clients with accurate expectations, outside counsel recommend having...

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FTC and DOJ Release FY 2013 HSR Annual Report

On May 21, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) released the Hart-Scott-Rodino Annual Report covering Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 (October 1, 2012 – September 30, 2013).  The report describes key merger enforcement actions over the past year and provides interesting data regarding the agencies’ antitrust enforcement activity. Specifically, the report indicates that in FY 2013, 1,326 transactions were reported under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act, representing an approximate 7 percent decline in reported transactions from FY 2012.  The FTC was granted clearance to investigate 145 of these transactions, while the DOJ was granted clearance to investigate 72 transactions.  Of the 145 transactions the FTC investigated in FY 2013, it only issued 25 second requests.  In other words, the FTC only issued second requests in 17.2 percent of its investigations in FY 2013.  The DOJ’s Antitrust Division, on the other hand, issued second...

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