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Jim O’Connell

Jim O’Connell advises clients on their critical antitrust matters, including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and other transactions; licensing arrangements and other business practices; government investigations; and litigation. In connection with his merger practice, he also regularly helps clients assess and comply with their obligations under the HSR Act and comparable merger control regimes around the world.

Clients and peers recommend Jim for his knowledge of antitrust law and his ability to provide expert and practical guidance. He is also recommended for his detailed understanding of the people and processes of the U.S. antitrust enforcement agencies, which he applies to help his clients navigate their most critical antitrust challenges successfully and efficiently. Legal 500 has described him as a “well-respected” practitioner who is “well connected with the DOJ” and recognized by clients for his ability to “quickly develop a high level of company-specific expertise.”

Jim has represented clients in a broad range of industries and sectors, including leading companies in the e-commerce, pharmaceutical, medical device, financial services, telecommunications, electronics, cable, broadcast, alcoholic beverages, consumer products, industrial products and heavy manufacturing, energy and natural resources, steel, aerospace, defense, chemicals, gaming, and software industries.

Jim joined Covington after over five years of public service with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he served in several leadership roles, including as Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff. As Deputy AAG, he had responsibility for the Division’s appellate program and for the development of its major legislative and policy positions, such as those regarding intellectual property and the enforcement of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. His duties also included managing the Division’s relations with its enforcement counterparts around the world. This extensive international enforcement experience enables him to provide his clients highly informed and practical assessments of their U.S. and non-U.S. antitrust risks. Prior to his government service, Jim practiced antitrust law at an international New York-based firm.

A frequent speaker and writer on antitrust law and policy issues, Jim has also been a leader in the Antitrust Section of the American Bar Association for many years, serving in such positions as Chair of the editorial board of Antitrust, the Section’s magazine, and as Co-Chair of the Section’s Federal Civil Enforcement Section. He is currently a member of the Section’s leadership Council. He has also testified before the U.S. Congress and the Antitrust Modernization Commission, and he has served as a non-governmental advisor to the International Competition Network, which brings together competition enforcement authorities, academics, and leading practitioners from around the world to foster the development of best practices and encourage convergence on matters of antitrust policy.

Last summer, the antitrust agencies proposed sweeping changes to the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act premerger notification form and associated rules. Covered in detail here, the proposed changes would significantly increase the time, burden, and costs on merging parties to prepare an HSR filing. The public comment period ended on September 27, 2023. Since then, the agencies have given little indication what changes would be made in response to the comments or when the proposed rules would be finalized.Continue Reading New HSR Rules Will Be Finalized Within Weeks, According to DOJ Official

On October 17, 2023, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) published a report on mergers and acquisitions (“M&A”) in the defense industrial base. The report details the current M&A review process of the Department of Defense (“DOD”) and provides recommendations to proactively assess M&A competition risks.

Currently, DOD’s Industrial Base Policy (“IBP”) office, with input

Continue Reading GAO Recommends Increased Guidance for DOD Mergers & Acquisitions Review

On July 19, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (collectively, “the Agencies”) issued a new set of merger guidelines in draft form for public comment (the “Draft Guidelines”).  The Draft Guidelines, if adopted, will replace the Horizontal Merger Guidelines issued in 2010 and the Vertical Merger Guidelines issued in 2020 (the latter of which the FTC withdrew in September 2021).  The updates make significant changes to the guidelines, such as:

  • Lowering the thresholds for when the Agencies are likely to presume that horizontal mergers are illegal;
  • Including—for the first time—a presumption of illegality for certain vertical mergers;
  • Adding guidelines focused on serial acquisitions and acquisitions of potential competitors;
  • Introducing concepts related specifically to multi-sided “platforms”; and
  • Explicitly addressing the effects of transactions on labor markets for the first time.

Continue Reading U.S. Antitrust Agencies Propose Major Changes to Merger Guidelines

On June 27, 2023, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), with the concurrence of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) (together, “the Agencies”), issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the “Notice”) that proposes extensive changes to the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act premerger notification form and associated instructions, as well as to the rules implementing the Act. The proposed changes represent the most significant revisions to the requirements that HSR filing persons must satisfy in the nearly 50 years since the inception of the HSR notification process. Continue Reading FTC and DOJ Propose Sweeping Changes to the HSR Form

When its Anti-Monopoly Law (“AML”) went into effect in August 2008, China immediately became a significant antitrust enforcer on the world stage.  On June 24, 2022, the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, passed the Amendment to the Anti-Monopoly Law of the PRC (the “Amendment”), the first significant changes to the AML in nearly fourteen years.  The Amendment, which was signed into law by President Xi Jinping and published on June 24, will become effective on August 1.  It marks a major milestone in antitrust enforcement in China.

The more significant aspects of the Amendment include:

  • significantly enhanced penalties for AML violations, including the introduction of fines for individuals;
  • the introduction of a discretionary “stop-the-clock” mechanism for merger reviews;
  • the codification of a burden-shifting framework created by China’s courts that gives companies the opportunity to defend resale price maintenance agreements; and
  • new safe harbor and burden of proof provisions for matters involving vertical agreements.

Consistent with trends in other jurisdictions around the world, the Amendment also features a special focus on key economic sectors such as the digital economy.

Following the publication of the Amendment, the State Administration for Market Regulation (“SAMR”), China’s lead antitrust enforcement authority, released six sets of draft implementing regulations for public comment.  These cover subjects such as merger control and notification thresholds, anti-competitive agreements, abuse of a dominant market position, and the abuse of intellectual property rights to exclude or restrict competition.  SAMR is accepting comments on these regulations until July 27, 2022.

How Covington Can Help

Covington’s global antitrust and competition practice guides clients through the often-complex web of antitrust and competition laws around the world to help them secure their most important business objectives. Our team, which includes many attorneys who have served in senior leadership roles at government enforcement agencies and in in-house positions, has decades of collective experience advising clients regarding their global antitrust and competition concerns.  If you have any questions concerning the material discussed in this client alert, please contact any of the following members of our Antitrust/Competition practice: Jim O’Connell, James Marshall, and Alexander Wang.

This communication is intended to bring relevant developments to the attention of Covington & Burling LLP’s clients and other interested colleagues. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before acting with regard to the subjects mentioned herein. Please send an email to unsubscribe@cov.com if you do not wish to receive future emails or electronic alerts.Continue Reading Significant Changes to China’s Anti-Monopoly Law to Take Effect in August

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published revised thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act, which will take effect on February 23, 2022. Earlier, the FTC also announced new thresholds for Section 8 of the Clayton Act, which governs interlocking directorates. Each of these thresholds is higher for 2022, than for 2021. The HSR Act and Section 8 thresholds are adjusted annually based on the change in gross national product. The maximum daily civil penalty for violations of the HSR Act, which is tied to inflation, has also increased.
Continue Reading FTC Announces New Higher HSR Filing and Interlocking Directorate Thresholds, Higher Civil Penalties

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced on February 4, 2021, that it is temporarily suspending the discretionary practice of granting “early termination” of the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act waiting period, with support from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The Agencies cited “the unprecedented volume of HSR filings” and “challenging transition period” as the reasons for suspending grants of early termination.
Continue Reading Early Termination of HSR Waiting Periods Temporarily Suspended

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published revised thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act, which will take effect on March 4, 2021. Earlier, the FTC also announced new thresholds for Section 8 of the Clayton Act, which governs interlocking directorates. Each of these thresholds is lower for 2021, than for 2020. This is only the second time the HSR Act thresholds, which—like the Section 8 thresholds—are indexed to gross national product, have fallen since annual adjustments began in 2005. In contrast, the maximum daily civil penalty for violations of the HSR Act, which is tied to inflation, has increased.
Continue Reading FTC Announces New Lower HSR Filing and Interlocking Directorate Thresholds, Higher Civil Penalties