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Shortly after the Justice Department’s challenge to AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner was announced, a rumor floated that AT&T had offered to divest CNN to assuage the Division’s concerns.  The gist of the rumor was that the Division is suing to block an otherwise legitimate transaction as an act of revenge against CNN because CNN is critical of President Trump.  In addition to the President’s remarks, the believers also point to statements by the Assistant…
After months of speculation among the consumer protection and antitrust bars, Trump announced today his intention to nominate former Director of the Bureau of Competition and current Paul Weiss partner Joseph Simons as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.  Trump also announced his plan to nominate Rohit Chopra, currently a senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America and previously Assistant Director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to one of two vacant commissioner…
On July 6, 2017, QVC announced its intent to acquire the remaining 62 percent of Home Shopping Network it doesn’t already own.  More so than DraftKings or Walgreens, this transaction will demonstrate whether Trump’s election has had any effect on antitrust enforcement, and should be watched carefully.  HSN and QVC are very similar, and the ability to do the deal will turn on what product market definition wins the day.  A very broad product market…
The European Commission has fined Google €2.42 billion ($2.7 billion) after concluding the company had abused its dominance in search.  According to a letter from the EC announcing the results of its investigation, Google has a dominant market position in search, and the company leveraged that dominance to give itself an unfair advantage in comparison shopping search.  For example, according to the EC, when a consumer types in the name of a particular product, Google…
Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Ohlhausen and Commissioner McSweeny recently gave two very different speeches on algorithmic pricing. Commissioner McSweeny’s speech seemed to express concern that algorithms would lead to price fixing, coordination and higher prices.  The Chairman seemed less concerned.  The Chairman is likely correct.  Pricing bots are not a new, sinister specter haunting society like the trusts of the late 19th Century.  Nor are they boogeymen hiding under your bed waiting to raise…
The Economist recently announced that the world’s most valuable resource is now data, displacing oil for the top spot.  The “titans” of the digital era—Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look “unstoppable” as they are now the five “most valuable” firms in the world.  Amazon captures “half of all dollars” spent online, and Google and Facebook accounted for “almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.”  The Economist claims that the…
A few weeks ago, we looked at price setting bots and whether what they were doing could constitute a violation of the Sherman Act. Generally, we concluded that a bot that set price off a competitor’s publicly available prices was not illegal.  In competitive markets, competitors set price at cost.  If they can set price based on a competitor’s price, the market is concentrated.  In a concentrated market, one would expect oligopolistic or parallel pricing;…
On Thursday, March 16, 2017, in a speech at the Bundeskartellamt’s 18th Conference on Competition, European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, discussed the specter of automated price fixing cartels.  She mentioned the Department of Justice suit against the poster vendor on Amazon as well as Google, which apparently prefers its own comparison shopping service over others.  These are very, very different things.  This post will focus on the legal and philosophical issues associated with price…
On December 14, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016.  The BOTS Act prohibits circumventing a website’s security measures to acquire event tickets.  It also restricts the reselling of tickets when the seller knows or should have known they were acquired through circumvention.  Importantly, it empowers the Federal Trade Commission and the States to enforce the law, but does not provide a private right of action to…
The Premerger Notification Office of the Federal Trade Commission announced on November 28, 2016, that they were revoking previous informal advice regarding the scope of Items 4(c) and 4(d) of the HSR Form.  In the past, the PNO has taken the position that documents that would otherwise be responsive to Items 4(c) and 4(d) but discuss only foreign markets would not have to be submitted.  Effective November 28, filers may no longer exclude such documents.…