On April 26, 2018, the U.S. Senate confirmed by unanimous consent all five pending nominees to the Federal Trade Commission. Once installed, the agency will have a full complement of commissioners for the first time in nearly three years. The FTC will be comprised of three Republicans—Joseph Simons (Chairman), Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine Wilson—and two Democrats—Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Rohit Chopra.

FTC Commissioners serve staggered seven-year terms. April 27, 2018, is Democrat Terrell McSweeny’s last day at the FTC, and Simons will take over her seat, which expires in 2024. Christine Wilson, who is slated to take over Acting Chair Maureen Ohlhausen’s seat, must wait until Ohlhausen’s departure from the agency. Ohlhausen has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, but has not yet been confirmed.

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Recently, President Trump announced that he sent names of four nominees to serve as commissioners on the five-member Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to the Senate for approval. If all four of the nominees are confirmed, it will still leave one remaining vacant seat on the FTC, which has been operating as a bipartisan two-member interim agency since early last year. The nominees, three of whom were announced last fall, consist of three Republicans—Joseph Simons, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson—and one Democrat, Rohit Chopra. Continue Reading President Trump Sends Four FTC Nominees to Senate for Approval

As consumers celebrated lower avocado prices at Whole Foods during the last week in August, views were mixed regarding the FTC’s decision not to challenge the Amazon/Whole Foods merger.

On August 23, 2017, the FTC’s Bureau of Competition issued a short statement that read, in its entirety: “The FTC conducted an investigation of this proposed acquisition to determine whether it substantially lessened competition under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, or constituted an unfair method of competition under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Based on our investigation we have decided not to pursue this matter further. Of course, the FTC always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted.”

Continue Reading FTC Allows Amazon/Whole Foods Deal to Go Through, but Not Everyone Agrees

On August 21, 2017, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that Simon Property Group settled claims that it used anticompetitive tactics to prevent development of competing outlet centers close to Woodbury Common center in New York. Leases with retailers at Woodbury Common included a clause preventing the retailers from opening another location within a 60 mile radius of the outlet center—a radius that encompassed the entire New York City area.  Continue Reading Simon Property Settled with NY AG Over Outlet Centers Restrictions

In the early 1990s, before everyone could instantly buy almost anything from their smartphone, the proposed combination of QVC network and Home Shopping Network (“HSN”) reportedly was shuttered due to antitrust concerns.
Continue Reading What Once Was Old Is New Again: QVC and HSN Announce Merger Plans 25 Years After Last Attempt

On April 19, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission issued warnings to more than 90 brands and “influencers” that their social media posts should more clearly and conspicuously disclose brand connections. The warning letters follow petitions filed by consumer advocacy groups aimed at influencer advertising on Instagram. The FTC’s warning letters show that the agency is committed to capitalizing on its recent enforcement actions against brands and influencers, and will continue to scrutinize social media compliance with the Endorsement Guides.

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On April 3, 2017, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it completed its review of Danone S.A.’s acquisition of The WhiteWave Foods Company Inc. (“WhiteWave”). In order to allow the $12.5 billion acquisition to proceed, the Antitrust Division is requiring Danone to divest the Stonyfield Farms business to an independent buyer approved by the U.S. government. Continue Reading DOJ Completes Review of Danone/WhiteWave Merger, Requires Divestitures

When a merger raises competitive concerns, the Federal Trade Commission or Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice may require remedies or conditions before the proposed transaction can proceed. Such remedies may be structural, which require the divestiture of business units to a third-party buyer, and/or behavioral, which require a binding commitment regarding the future behavior of the merged firm.  Continue Reading FTC Issues Staff Study on the Effectiveness of Merger Remedies from 2006-2012

Gearing Up For Change in Antitrust Merger Enforcement

“Litigation readiness” was the unofficial theme of antitrust enforcement at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission over the past eight years. Although determining whether this “litigation readiness” actually resulted in the two antitrust enforcement agencies’ bringing more merger cases than we might have otherwise seen is a complicated question, the practical effect was that deal review took longer, faced increased scrutiny, involved more non-parties, was more expensive and faced more uncertainty than in prior administrations. These effects were evident in the recent number of large-scale, high-profile litigated deals involving retail and consumer products companies, including the FTC’s challenges to the proposed mergers of Staples/Office Depot, Sysco/U.S. Foods and Dollar Tree/Family Dollar, and the Antitrust Division’s challenge to the proposed acquisition of GE’s appliances business by Electrolux. Continue Reading Antitrust Merger Enforcement in the Retail Sector

The practice of incorporating use restrictions in leases is common by retailers to protect their investments in new stores and improvements to existing stores. However, retailers should consider both property and antitrust issues when drafting and enforcing use provisions of a lease. In addition, use restrictions could be used by disgruntled potential tenants as fodder for litigation if the terms have the effect of excluding tenants from prime locations. Continue Reading Retailers Beware: Antitrust Implications of Restrictive Covenants