The Covington US and EU Competition/Antitrust teams will be updating you regularly, through the Covington Competition blog, on the competition/antitrust law implications – both procedural and substantive – of the COVID-19 crisis in the US and the EU.  This is our update for Wednesday 6 May 2020. Today’s new updates as compared to the previous update are highlighted – these are the headlines:

  • Today’s EU updates:


Continue Reading COVID 19 – US and EU Competition Law Implications (6 May 2020)

The Covington US and EU Competition/Antitrust teams will be updating you regularly, through the Covington Competition blog, on the competition/antitrust law implications – both procedural and substantive – of the COVID-19 crisis in the US and the EU.  This is our update for Thursday 30 April 2020. Today’s new updates as compared to the previous update are highlighted – these are the headlines:

  • Today’s EU updates:
    • The Court has announced that it intends to resume hearings on 25 May 2020.
    • The Commission has cleared a further number of State aid requests by Member States.  Skip to relevant section.


Continue Reading COVID 19 – US and EU Competition Law Implications (30 April 2020)

The Covington US and EU Competition/Antitrust teams will be updating you regularly, through the Covington Competition blog, on the competition/antitrust law implications – both procedural and substantive – of the COVID-19 crisis in the US and the EU.  This is our update for Friday 24 April. Today’s new updates as compared to the previous update are highlighted – these are the headlines:

  • Today’s EU updates:
    • The German government intends to prolong merger procedure time periods, extending phase I investigations to two months and in-depth phase II investigations to six months. The new law will apply to all mergers notified between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2020. The underlying reason is the significant impact of COVID-19 on the Federal Cartel Office’s daily operations. Due to contact bans and the temporary closure of businesses, merger control investigations may not be concluded within the usual time periods, which might result in a clearance of concentrations which may significantly impede effective competition. The proposed changes aim to allow the authority to further investigate the markets concerned. Skip to relevant section.
    • The Commission has cleared a further number of State aid requests by Member States.  Skip to relevant section.


Continue Reading COVID 19 – US and EU Competition Law Implications (24 April 2020)

In two recent webinars covering antitrust, mergers and state aid, DG COMP senior officials shared their views on how DG COMP is operating under the current COVID-19 crisis.

Antitrust: More Flexible Enforcement

Maria Jaspers, head of unit for antitrust case support and policy, gave the following key messages:

  • The absence of legal deadlines creates certain flexibility with regard to time-tables in pending investigations;
  • The crisis may have an influence on pending policy reviews (including the vertical and horizontal block exemption regulations);
  • Several actions have been put into place: these measures include the European Competition Network’s (the “ECN”) joint statement of 23 March 2020, indicating that the Commission (and the competition authorities of the Member States) will not actively intervene against necessary and temporary measures between businesses aimed to avoid a shortage of supply;
  • She pointed to the information on DG COMP’s website titled “Antitrust Rules and Coronavirus” providing dedicated guidance to businesses. Additionally, DG COMP has set up a dedicated mailbox that can be used to seek informal guidance on specific initiatives;
  • She recalled that, on 8 April 2020, the Commission published a “Temporary Framework for assessing antitrust issues related to business cooperation in response to situations of urgency stemming from the current COVID-19 outbreak” (the “Temporary Framework”). Read more on the Temporary Framework in this blogpost. Rainer Becker, head of unit in antitrust for pharma and health services added that DG COMP is vigilantly monitoring the markets to ensure that there are no breaches on the back of the crisis and that DG COMP will continue to progress opened proceedings, including by assessing complaints and market information. However, he indicated that competition rules may in certain circumstances be applied in a more flexible manner (read more on the flexible application of competition law rules here).


Continue Reading Competition Enforcement Under the COVID-19 Crisis: DG COMP Staff’s Views

The Covington US and EU Competition/Antitrust teams will be updating you regularly, through the Covington Competition blog, on the competition/antitrust law implications – both procedural and substantive – of the COVID-19 crisis in the US and the EU.  This is our update for Thursday 16 April. Today’s new updates as compared to the previous update are highlighted – these are the headlines:

  • Today’s US updates:
    • The FTC has temporarily halted proceedings in three administrative antitrust merger challenges — Axon, Juul, and Arch Coal — until June, due to the public health emergency associated with COVID-19. Skip to relevant section.
  • Today’s EU updates:

  • Continue Reading COVID 19 – US and EU Competition Law Implications (16 April 2020)

    With a remarkable statement in an interview with the Financial Times published on 12 April 2020, the Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager in charge of Competition was cited to have declared that the Commission has “no issues” with EU Member States buying shares in companies to prevent takeovers by foreign acquirers, in particular by State-backed enterprises.

    Coming at a time of increased attention to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limitations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this takes up discussions about “Golden Shares”, a mechanism allowing a Member State to veto certain “critical” decisions such as takeovers on the basis of a minority shareholding in a company, and adds a new dimension to the discussion that has been raging across Europe, covering FDI, but also State aid and the principle of free movement of capital.
    Continue Reading “No Issues” with Member State Participations – State-backed EU Companies as the New Normal?

    The Covington US and EU Competition/Antitrust teams will be updating you regularly, through the Covington Competition blog, on the competition/antitrust law implications – both procedural and substantive – of the COVID-19 crisis in the US and the EU.  This is our update for Tuesday 14 April. Today’s new updates as compared to the previous update are highlighted – these are the headlines:

    • Today’s US updates:
      • On 13 April 2020, the agencies issued a joint statement announcing that they are on alert for collusion, coordination, and certain unilateral conduct that could harm workers, including doctors, nurses, first responders, and those who work in grocery stores, pharmacies, and warehouses.  Prior to the COVID-19 emergency, the agencies have challenged such practices as wage-fixing, no-poach agreements, non-competes, and exchanges of competitively sensitive information that could harm competition for labor.  The announcement emphasized that, while the DOJ and FTC continue to recognize the need for pro-competitive collaborations during the crisis, they will pursue action against those who “may use it as an opportunity to prey on American workers by subverting competition in labor markets“. Skip to relevant section.
    • Today’s EU updates:
      • In an interview with the Financial Times published on 12 April 2020, European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager in charge of Competition declared that the Commission has “no issues” with EU Member States buying shares in companies to prevent takeovers by foreign acquirers, in particular of state-backed enterprises.  She announced that the Commission is going to address this position in a guidance paper probably in June of this year.  In a separate post, the Covington team will be commenting on how this statement impacts on key legal issues such as free movement of capital and State Aid.  We will also seek to explore how this statement relates to the European Champions discussion and the debate that more “critical” goods need to be manufactured in the EU.  Skip to relevant section.
      • The Commission has cleared a further number of State aid requests by Member States.  Skip to relevant section.


    Continue Reading COVID 19 – US and EU Competition Law Implications (14 April 2020)

    COVID-19 has had a profound effect on supply chains, creating shortages and, in some cases, raising prices of vital medical and consumer products. It is no surprise that consumers, businesses, and government authorities are sounding the alarm about potential price gouging and pursuing those who appear to be exploiting the current crisis. On March 23, President Trump signed Executive Order 13910 under the Defense Production Act, which, among other things, prohibits hoarding of designated materials for the purpose of price gouging. Various federal agencies have warned that they will vigorously prosecute related conduct. Many state authorities have triggered the operation of price gouging statutes or stated their intention to use other available enforcement tools.

    The uncertainty surrounding these competing legal frameworks can present challenges for suppliers of in-demand products at all levels of the distribution chain. There is no uniform definition of the offense of price gouging, which generally refers to opportunistic pricing at above-market rates or dramatic increases of prices for products in critical need. The diverse set of applicable state and federal laws vary in their operation and scope. This alert identifies the key federal and state enforcement risks and provides practical guidance for suppliers and purchasers seeking to navigate these issues.
    Continue Reading Federal and State Price-Gouging Enforcement in the Era of COVID-19

    On 3 April 2020, the European Commission adopted an amendment (the “Amendment”) extending the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak (The “Temporary Framework”) (See our previous post on the Temporary Framework here). The Amendment aims in particular to facilitate the grant of aid for the research, testing and production of products relevant for the fight against COVID-19 (e.g., medicines, vaccines, disinfectants, medical devices and equipment), as well as to protect jobs and to further support the economy in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Continue Reading The Commission amends the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak

    On 8 April 2020, the European Commission published its Communication on the “Temporary Framework for assessing antitrust issues related to business cooperation in response to situations of urgency stemming from the current COVID-19 outbreak” (the “Framework“).

    The Commission recognizes that supply chains have been severely disrupted due to COVID-19, combined with “an asymmetric demand shock caused by either an abrupt decline in consumer demand for certain products and services or a steep rise in demand for other products and services”, notably in the health sector.  The duration and intensity of the shock is unknown.

    These exceptional circumstances “may trigger the need for undertakings to cooperate with each other in order to overcome or at least mitigate the effects of the crisis to the ultimate benefit of citizens” (para 3).

    The purpose of the Framework is to:

    (i) explain the main criteria that the Commission will follow when assessing possible cooperation projects between undertakings aimed at addressing the shortage of essential products and services during the COVID-19 outbreak;

    (ii) describe the exceptional procedure that the Commission has set up to provide, where appropriate, ad hoc ‘comfort letters’ to undertakings in relation to specific cooperation projects.
    Continue Reading European Commission Publishes Exceptional Antitrust Guidance for Undertakings Collaborating to Address the Shortage of Essential Products and Services during COVID-19