The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice  and the Federal Trade Commission recently issued a revised model second request clarifying that companies under investigation have an obligation to preserve communications on messaging platforms including those on so-called ephemeral applications.  These applications, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Signal, and Google Chat, can be configured to

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has announced updated size-of-transaction thresholds for premerger notification (Hart-Scott-Rodino or “HSR”) filings, as well as updates to the HSR filing fees and transaction value categories.  Separately, the FTC has also updated the de minimis thresholds for interlocking officer and director prohibitions under Section 8 of the Clayton Act.

The HSR filing thresholds, which are revised annually based on the change in gross national product, trigger a premerger notification filing requirement with both the FTC and the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) Antitrust Division.  For proposed mergers and acquisitions, the 2024 threshold will increase from $111.4 million to $119.5 million.Continue Reading The FTC Updates Size of Transaction Thresholds and Filing Fees for Premerger Notification Filings for 2024

On December 18, 2023, the DOJ and FTC jointly released the final 2023 Merger Guidelines that describe how the agencies will evaluate proposed merger and acquisition transactions.  Despite significant editing, and calls from industry to moderate the guidelines, the agencies essentially doubled down on their vision, which we have previously described, promising a more aggressive review of future transactions while providing limited concrete guidance for merging companies.

Changes From Draft Guidelines

We summarize some of the changes made between the draft guidelines and the final version.  None of these, though, are major revisions.  Beyond what is highlighted here, most of the revisions are wordsmithing and the addition of more contemporary case citations, perhaps in response to criticism that the case law cited was all very old.

  • Multimarket Contact Theory.  The agencies have inserted into Guideline 3 an additional example of a situation that may give rise to an anticompetitive alignment of incentives that can be a secondary factor to support a finding of coordinated effects.  Guideline 3 now states that if a merger results in a situation in which the merged firm competes with another firm in multiple markets (“multi-market contact”), firms might have an incentive to compete less aggressively in some markets in anticipation of reciprocity by rivals in other markets.
  • Weakened Threshold for Foreclosure in Vertical Mergers.  Draft Guidelines 5 and 6 have been combined into new Guideline 5, which focuses on vertical merger issues. The agencies removed the bright-line presumption of illegality where one merging party has a 50% share of a “related market” into which the merging counterparty sells or buys.  Instead, the text states that the presumption may be found if the merged firm is approaching or has monopoly power over the related product, and the related products is competitively sensitive.  And the 50% share figure resurfaces in footnote 30, albeit with slightly weaker language stating that the agencies “will generally infer” a violation if the 50% threshold is crossed.

Continue Reading DOJ and FTC Finalize Merger Guidelines

A recent Seventh Circuit opinion by Judge Easterbrook held that no-poach agreements, absent valid ancillary restraints, can be per se illegal. Per se violations of the antitrust laws are inherently illegal—meaning no defenses or justifications are available. They have traditionally included conduct like horizontal price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation. 

This is the first appellate opinion to reach the conclusion that no-poach agreements can be per se violations. As the Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) has spent the past seven years arguing that no-poach agreements are criminal violations of the antitrust laws, the opinion could empower the DOJ to bring more no-poach cases, given that it must establish an antitrust violation is a per se violation for criminal cases. This opinion also fires a warning shot at companies that use no-poach clauses in franchise agreements. Under the principles described in the opinion, many no-poach clauses in that type of agreement may be per se illegal.Continue Reading Seventh Circuit: No-Poach Agreements May Be Per Se Illegal

Yesterday (July 19, 2023), the DOJ Antitrust Division and the FTC released the long-anticipated proposed Merger Guidelines. As has also been long-anticipated, the proposed Guidelines reflect a much-stiffened enforcement philosophy. Throughout the text, the proposed Guidelines provide citations to Supreme Court cases from the 1960s and 1970s (and some even older) that will send

In a yet another setback for the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ongoing effort to prosecute labor-side violations of the Sherman Act, District of Connecticut Judge Victor A. Bolden granted a motion for a judgment of acquittal on April 28, 2023 in United States v. Patel. The order, which was entered before the jury

The FTC has taken its strongest actions yet to limit private contract terms limiting employees’ ability to work for competitors, both issuing a proposed rule barring most noncompete agreements and filing complaints and consent decrees with three companies prohibiting their specific noncompete provisions. Prudent employers should evaluate their own employment contracts to assess the risk

On January 23, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced updated size-of-transaction thresholds for premerger notification (Hart-Scott-Rodino or “HSR”) filings, as well as new HSR filing fees and new de minimis thresholds for interlocking officer and director prohibitions under Section 8 of the Clayton Act.

The HSR filing thresholds, which are revised annually based on

On October 31, 2022, Judge Florence Pan, now on the D.C. Circuit but sitting by designation in the District Court of the District of Columbia, delivered a “treat” to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and a “trick” to Penguin Random House by blocking its $2.18 billion purchase of rival publisher Simon & Schuster.  The opinion, which was released on November 7, 2022, represents a comprehensive endorsement of the DOJ’s monopsony theory of the case and a complete rejection of the defendants’ counterarguments.  After a string of defeats, the case marks the first win for the DOJ under the Biden administration in a litigated merger challenge.Continue Reading DOJ Blocks the Penguin/Simon & Schuster Deal:  A Signature Antitrust Win for the Biden Administration