On May 9, 2024, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced the formation of the Antitrust Division’s Task Force on Health Care Monopolies and Collusion (“HCMC”). The HCMC “will guide the division’s enforcement strategy and policy approach in health care, including by facilitating policy advocacy, investigations and, where warranted, civil and criminal enforcement in health care markets.” Continue Reading DOJ Focus on Health Care Marches Forward with Formation of Task Force

On May 7, 2024, in Ryan, LLC v. FTC et al., Judge Ada Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas set a briefing schedule on Ryan’s Motion for Stay of Effective Date and Preliminary Injunction (the “Motion”) attacking the FTC Final Rule banning employer-employee non‑compete restrictions, and ordered that she would rule on the merits of the Motion on or before July 3, 2024—two months before the FTC Final Rule is scheduled to become effective on September 4, 2024. Continue Reading Motion Seeking to Stay or Enjoin FTC Final Rule Banning Employer-Employee Non‑Competes Set for Ruling by July 3, 2024

With the advent of messaging apps such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Signal, the ways in which employees are able to communicate and collaborate with each other are rapidly expanding. At the same time, companies have increased use of document collaboration platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint and eRooms to supplement or replace traditional closed-system document management systems. Message and document retention within these platforms is uneven and, in some cases (such as in the popular messaging app SnapChat), speedy message erasure is not a bug, but a feature. On Friday, January 26, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Department of Justice Antitrust Division (“DOJ”) announced that the two agencies are updating the standard preservation obligation guidance to keep pace with the expanded use of collaboration tools that do not otherwise prioritize message retention.Continue Reading FTC and DOJ Update Preservation Obligation Guidance

On January 22, the FTC announced updated dollar thresholds triggering the bar on interlocking officers and directors under Section 8 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 19. Section 8 of the Clayton Act prohibits one person from serving as a director or officer of two competing corporations if the corporations meet certain size and competitive sales thresholds.  For 2024, Section 8 applies if each corporation has capital, surplus, and undivided profits aggregating more than $45,257,000; however, no corporation is covered if the competitive sales of either corporation are less than $4,525,700.  These new thresholds took effect on January 22, 2024. 

The next day, the FTC announced updated dollar thresholds triggering the jurisdiction of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended (“HSR Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 18a, to certain acquisitions.  The new HSR Act thresholds will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal RegisterContinue Reading FTC Increases HSR Thresholds and Clayton 8 Thresholds

On Monday December 18, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) released the final version of their Merger Guidelines (“Guidelines”), capping a nearly two-year effort to implement a policy capturing the Biden Administration’s aggressive enforcement stance in merger reviews. The Guidelines are intended to provide transparency into how the agencies evaluate whether a merger or acquisition may lessen competition in violation of the Clayton Act. After the agencies released the draft merger guidelines in July (“Draft Guidelines”), the agencies received over 3,000 public comments, many of them criticizing the Draft Guidelines for being too aggressive and departing too radically from controlling case law and practice.  The final Guidelines reflect the agencies’ consideration of the comments received.

While the final Guidelines largely maintain the same aggressive positions of the draft, they introduce more nuanced language that signals more openness to rebuttal evidence than the Draft Guidelines. The most apparent change is an across-the-board shift away from a flat prohibition on certain effects and toward a more traditional warning about the possible consequences when those effects are present. This is an important change to the draft language, which had come under fire for appearing to set forth several rules of per se illegality. For example, in Guideline 2, the draft language stated that “mergers should not eliminate substantial competition between firms,” (emphasis added), signaling the possibility that the agencies would challenge any merger between rivals even when remaining competitors would discipline any post-merger attempt to raise prices or reduce output or quality. In contrast, the final language states that “mergers can violate the law when they eliminate substantial competition between firms” (emphasis added), affirming what has always been the case.Continue Reading FTC and DOJ Publish 2023 Merger Guidelines

On September 26, 2023 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 17 states filed suit against Amazon in the Western District of Washington, alleging the tech giant uses anticompetitive practices to maintain its monopoly power in its online supermarket store and marketplace services. The FTC seeks a permanent injunction to prohibit Amazon from continuing its alleged “punitive and coercive tactics.”

The FTC alleges Amazon engages in exclusionary conduct that both hinders the ability of competitors to meaningfully compete on Amazon’s platform, and inflates online prices for consumers. Amazon owns its marketplace platform, sells its products on its platform in competition with other online sellers, and controls the fulfillment, shipping, and delivery network that sellers and customers are incentivized to use. As alleged by the FTC, Amazon (among other things) punishes companies that discount their products on other platforms by burying those sellers in its search results, coerces sellers to obtain “Prime” eligibility for their products and use Amazon’s higher-cost delivery network, biases search results to preference Amazon’s own products, and charges unreasonable fees to hundreds of thousands of third-party sellers.Continue Reading The FTC and States Sue Amazon, Alleging Anticompetitive Practices

On July 19, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) released for comment proposed joint merger guidelines which seek to replace the agencies’ vertical merger guidelines released in 2020 and horizontal merger guidelines released in 2010.  The proposals introduce significant changes to both the ways in which the agencies define markets and competition, and the evidence and metrics they would use to assess a merger’s competitive effects.

Among the more significant proposed changes are the following:

They would materially change how relevant geographic and product markets are defined, and when to consider those markets “highly concentrated.”

Market definition:  The proposals would significantly change how product and geographic markets within which competitive effects of a merger would be defined.  Under current law, to define the boundaries of relevant product and geographic markets, the agencies apply the “hypothetical monopolist test,” in which firms or products that would prevent the merged firm from increasing price by a small but significant and non-transitory amount are considered to be within the “relevant market.”  The agencies propose to include in this calculus not only price but other “terms” such as “quality, service, capacity investment, choice of product variety or features, or innovative effort,” raising the possibility that the agencies may exclude from the market rivals who could discipline overt attempts to increase price but not more opaque reductions in service, quality, or R&D efforts, to which consumers may be much less sensitive. 

Market concentration:  The current guidelines recognize that the anticompetitive effects of a merger generally increase in more concentrated markets in which fewer significant firms compete.  The proposed guidelines would lower the standard for a “highly concentrated market” (a trigger for a presumption of a merger’s illegality) to a level that the current guidelines consider to be only a “moderately concentrated market.”  In addition, the proposals would introduce a market share-based test as a trigger for raising an “impermissible threat of undue concentration,” when the merged firm’s market share will exceed 30 percent and concentration would increase modestly.Continue Reading DOJ and FTC Propose Draft Revised Merger Guidelines

On July 3, President Biden announced nominees Andrew Ferguson and Melissa Holyoak to the Federal Trade Commission, filling two Republican vacancies.

Ferguson has served as the Solicitor General of Virginia since February 2022, overseeing the state’s appellate litigation, including at the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. He served as counsel for Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and most recently, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Ferguson spent several years in private practice after clerking for Judge Karen Henderson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Justice Clarence Thomas on the US Supreme Court. Ferguson earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia.Continue Reading White House Announces Nominees for FTC

By: Matthew A. Rossi and Eleanor Hudson Callaway

On Friday, April 14, 2023, the Supreme Court cleared the way for respondents in Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) administrative proceedings to challenge the constitutionality of those proceedings in federal district court while the administrative process is ongoing.  Typically, as required by

On April 13, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) sent a Notice of Penalty Offenses to approximately 670 companies detailing conduct that the FTC claims violates the prohibition on unfair or deceptive trade practices set forth in Section 5 of the FTC Act.  The noticed offenses include failure to adequately substantiate claims made in marketing and advertising about products, particularly health benefit claims and claims of efficacy.  All product claims must be supported by competent and reliable evidence as of the time of the claim.  Claims of health or safety benefits, or that the product is effective in the cure, mitigation, or treatment of serious disease, must satisfy much higher evidentiary standards.Continue Reading FTC Issues New Notice of Penalty Offenses Concerning Substantiation of Product Claims