Antitrust

This year, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) is set to gain a range of new enforcement powers under the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (“DMCC”) Act (the final text is now available here). The DMCC Act received Royal Assent on 24 May 2024. However, with certain exceptions, the Act’s provisions will not come into force until secondary legislation is passed. The CMA initially expected its new responsibilities to become operational in the Autumn, but this timeline may be delayed due to the UK’s election on 4 July. On the same day as the DMCC Act became law, the CMA published for consultation its new Digital Markets Competition Regime Guidance.

An outline of the key provisions of the DMCC Act can be found here. As the CMA sets the groundwork for exercising its powers under this new regime, this blog post considers five practical considerations for firms active in the UK.

Key takeaways:

  1. The CMA will administer the new regime through a specialist Digital Markets Unit, which was established over three years ago.
  2. The DMCC Act may diverge from the EU’s Digital Markets Act, both in the companies being designated, and the obligations imposed on designated companies.
  3. The interplay between the DMCC regime and existing regulatory obligations – particularly the GDPR – is likely to raise practical challenges.
  4. We expect the CMA to exercise its powers under the digital markets regime alongside existing antitrust tools (which the DMCC Act amends).
  5. The CMA’s jurisdictional thresholds to review mergers under the UK’s merger control regime will change as a result of the DMCC Act.

Continue Reading The UK’s New Digital Markets Regime: Some Key Takeaways

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (“DMCC”) Act received Royal Assent on 24 May 2024 (the final text is now available here). The DMCC Act will only enter into force, however, when secondary commencement legislation has been enacted (with some minor exceptions). This is expected to occur in Autumn 2024, but it

Continue Reading Overview of the UK’s New Digital Markets Regime

In line with its previous decision-making practice (see our previous sustainability blog posts here and here), on 8 May 2024, the German Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) declared the implementation of a new European industry standard for reusable pot plant trays compatible with competition law.

Since 2021, companies and associations from the European

Continue Reading FCO gives green light for ‘greener’ plant trays

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 November 3, 2023, FTC Chair Lina Khan sent a letter addressed to Representative Thomas P. Tiffany describing the FTC’s merger enforcement program during her tenure at the agency. The letter was a response to an inquiry from seven members of congress for information about the costs associated with certain litigated merger challenges brought by

Continue Reading Recently Published FTC Data Confirm Historically Low Number of Merger Enforcement Actions

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

A glance at headlines regarding competition law could easily give the impression that U.S. antitrust agencies have embarked on a record number of merger challenges in recent years. But the numbers tell a different story: in the first two years of the current Administration, the rate of merger-related federal enforcement actions has actually decreased. While

Continue Reading Biden Antitrust Agencies Bring Fewer Merger Enforcement Actions, but Attempt to Chill Deal Activity in Other Ways

On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued a groundbreaking proposed rule that would, if finalized:

  • prohibit most employers from entering into non-compete clauses with workers, including employees and individual independent contractors;
  • prohibit such employers from maintaining non-compete clauses with workers or representing to a worker that the worker is subject to a non-compete clause; and
  • require employers to rescind any existing non-compete clause with workers by the compliance date of the rule and notify the affected workers that their non-compete clause is no longer in effect.

The FTC’s notice of proposed rulemaking explains that the FTC considered possible limitations on the rule—such as excluding senior executives or highly paid employees from the ban—but it ultimately proposed a categorical ban on non-competes.  The only exception is for non-competes related to the sale of a business.  However, even this exception is unusually narrow: it would only apply to selling business owners who own at least 25% percent of the business being sold.  (The proposal also would not apply to most non-profits, certain financial institutions, common carriers, and others who are also outside the scope of FTC regulation.)

As discussed in Covington’s January 5 client alert, the FTC explained that it issued the proposed rule due to its belief that non-competes reduce wages, stifle innovation and business, and are exploitative and unnecessary. Continue Reading FTC Proposes Rule to Ban Most Non-Competes

On September 29, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of three antitrust bills (H.R. 3843) by a vote of 242-184. The package includes: (1) the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act; (2) the Foreign Merger Subsidy Disclosure Act; and (3) the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act.Continue Reading U.S. House of Representatives Passes Antitrust Legislative Package

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