Bulletin
Latest News issue: October 2019 - II

Anticompetitive practices

The US DOJ opens an investigation of four car manufacturers for possible collusion and enters into an agreement with the Californian State on light vehicle emissions and gas mileage standards New
Richard Wolfram, Esq. (New York)
THE DOJ INVESTIGATES CAR MANUFACTURERS FOR ’COLLUSSION’ IN THEIR FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT WITH CALIFORNIA ON GAS MILEAGE AND EMISSIONS STANDARDS: SOUNDING THE DEPTHS OF PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION ON ANTICOMPETITIVE COLLUSION AS DISTINGUISHED FROM PROCOMPETITIVE COLLABORATION* At a historic moment in (...)

The UK Financial Conduct Authority issues its first formal decision under its competition law enforcement powers by finning three asset management firms in an IPO context (Hargreave / Newton / RAMAM) New
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (London)
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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (London)
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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (London)
On 21 February 2019, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a decision finding that three asset management firms breached competition law in the context of an initial public offering (IPO). This marks the FCA’s first formal decision under its competition law enforcement powers, which it (...)

The EU Commission fines canned vegetables cartelists an amount of €31.6 million (Coroos / CECAB)
Gomez Acebo & Pombo (Brussels)
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Gomez Acebo & Pombo (Brussels)
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Gomez Acebo & Pombo (Brussels)
Canned vegetables companies Coroos, Groupe CECAB and Bonduelle have been found to have participated in a cartel in the supply of canned vegetables to retailers and food service companies in the European Economic Area (“EEA”). In particular, the Commission’s investigation showed that the (...)

The Italian Supreme Court sheds light on the severance of anti-competitive clauses of a banking personal guarantee contract (De Gregorio / Banca Promos)
Desogus Law Office (Cagliari)
Introduction Article 2 of the Italian Competition Law no. 287/1990 (ICL), which is equal to Article 101 TFEU, provides that an agreement that restrains competition is void. By its judgment rendered in De Gregorio et al v Banca Promos, the Italian Court of Cassation has considered the reach of (...)

The EU General Court reaffirms the EU Commission’s duty to provide sufficient reasons when explaining fine calculations in cartel cases (HSBC)
Shearman & Sterling (Brussels)
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Shearman & Sterling (London)
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Shearman & Sterling (Brussels)
On 24 September 2019, the EU General Court (GC) handed down its judgment in HSBC v. Commission. Consistent with recent precedent, the GC reaffirmed the European Commission (“Commission”)’s duty to provide sufficient reasons when explaining fine calculations in cartel cases and annulled the fine (...)

The Advocate General Bobek publishes his opinion on the concept of restriction of competition by "object" or by "effect" (Budapest Bank)
Dentons (Brussels)
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Dentons (Brussels)
AG BOBEK’S OPINION IN BUDAPEST BANK: ON OBJECT VS. EFFECT, FISH AND LILIES* On September 5, 2019, Advocate General Bobek published his opinion in the Budapest Bank case (C-228/18). The opinion provides very clear and practical guidance on the concept of restriction of competition by object – a (...)

The Canadian Competition Authority issues a call-out for information from Canada’s business community about conduct in the digital economy that may be harmful to competition
Canadian Competition Bureau (Gatineau)
Competition Bureau calls for businesses to report potentially anti-competitive conduct in the digital economy* The Competition Bureau has published a call-out for information from Canada’s business community about conduct in the digital economy that may be harmful to competition. The Bureau is (...)

The Spanish Competition Authority issues a new and modified ruling on the dairy sector cartel and imposes fines on companies and two trade associations amounting to €80.6 million (Industrias Làcteas 2)
CMS Albiñana y Suárez de Lezo (Madrid)
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CMS Albiñana y Suárez de Lezo (Madrid)
On 26 February 2015, the Spanish Competition Authority (“CNMC”) handed nine companies and two trade associations that operated in the dairy sector fines of EUR 88 million. These fines were annulled by the Spanish High Court in October/November 2018 after the Spanish Supreme Court declared that a (...)

Unilateral Practices

The Belgian Parliament adopts legislation allowing the Competition Authority to establish and sanction abuses of economic dependence New
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Brussels)
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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Brussels)
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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Brussels)
On 21 March, the Belgian Parliament adopted legislation introducing a new concept of abuse of economic dependence in Belgian competition law. The new provision will allow the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) to establish and sanction abuses without the need to establish market dominance, (...)

The EU Commission imposes interim measures on a technology company suspected to have abused of its dominance in the TV and modem chipset markets (Broadcom)
DG COMP (Brussels)
Antitrust: Commission imposes interim measures on Broadcom in TV and modem chipset markets* The European Commission has ordered Broadcom to stop applying certain provisions contained in agreements with six of its main customers. This will prevent serious and irreparable harm to competition (...)

Mergers

The French Competition Authority launches its online notification procedure for certain mergers
French Competition Authority (Paris)
Modernisation of merger control* Today, the Autorité de la concurrence launched its online notification procedure for certain mergers. Background The Autorité is continuing the simplification process it has begun for merger procedures. After adopting various measures to reduce and simplify (...)

The EU Commission opens an in-depth investigation relating to a proposed joint venture by aircraft manufacturers (Boeing / Embraer)
DG COMP (Brussels)
Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into joint ventures proposed by Boeing and Embraer* The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed creation of two joint ventures by aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Embraer, under the EU Merger Regulation. (...)

The EU Commission clears a merger, subject to remedies, in the production of aluminium automotive body sheets market (Novelis / Aleris)
DG COMP (Brussels)
Mergers: Commission clears Novelis’ acquisition of Aleris, subject to conditions* The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Aleris by Novelis. The decision is conditional on the divestiture of Aleris’ aluminium automotive body sheets business in (...)

The Spanish Competition Authority investigates potential gun jumping in a merger in the fruit and vegetables wholesale sector (Sociedad Agraria de Transformación)
Gomez Acebo & Pombo (Brussels)
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Gomez Acebo & Pombo (Brussels)
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Gomez Acebo & Pombo (Brussels)
In September 2019, the CNMC announced that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against NUFRI, Sociedad Agraria de Transformación A.P.A, an entity active in the wholesale of fruits and vegetables. In particular, the CNMC is concerned that NUFRI could have violated the standstill obligation (...)

The US Department of Justice provides details on the use of arbitration to resolve a challenge to a proposed acquisition in the market of aluminum sheet (Novelis / Aleris)
Jones Day (Washington DC)
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Jones Day (New York)
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Jones Day (Washington DC)
In Short: The Situation: The United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division ("DOJ") has provided details on the unprecedented use of arbitration to resolve its challenge to the proposed acquisition of Aleris Corporation by Novelis Inc. The Significance: Companies now have greater (...)

The US Department of Justice agrees to use binding arbitration to resolve merger disputes for a new approach in antitrust enforcements (Novelis / Aleris)
Constantine Cannon (New York)
DOJ AGREEMENT TO USE BINDING ARBITRATION TO RESOLVE MERGER DISPUTE COULD HERALD NEW APPROACH IN ANTITRUST ENFORCEMENT* Federal antitrust enforcers may be increasingly looking to arbitrators—instead of federal courts—to be the arbiters of competition law if a new approach in enforcement takes (...)

State Aid

The EU General Court delivers two judgements clarifying how State aid rules apply to national tax rulings and determines whether a transfer pricing ruling in respect of intra-group transactions confers a selective advantage under the EU State aid rules (Fiat / Starbucks) New
Baker Botts (Brussels)
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Leuven University
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Baker Botts (Brussels)
On 24 September 2019, the General Court (the ‘Court’) upheld the European Commission’s (the ‘Commission’) ruling ordering Luxembourg to recover EUR 23.1 million from Fiat Chrysler Finance Europe (‘FFT’) and annulled the Commission’s ruling ordering the Netherlands to recover EUR 25.7 million from (...)

The EU General Court upholds the EU Commission’s assessment that the Czech renewable energy support scheme involved State resources (FVE Holýšov I) New
Baker Botts (Brussels)
In a judgment of 20 September 2019, the EU General Court (the “General Court”) upheld a 2016 decision of the European Commission (the “Commission”) finding that a EUR 31 billion Czech support scheme in favour of renewable energy sources (“RES”) should be classified as State aid. The judgment (...)

The EU Commission opens an investigation into proposed Hungarian public support for a plant in the battery cell production facility market (Samsung)
DG COMP (Brussels)
STATE AID: COMMISSION OPENS INVESTIGATION INTO PROPOSED PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR SAMSUNG PLANT IN HUNGARY* The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether Hungary’s plans to grant €108 million of public support to Samsung SDI for investing in the expansion of its battery (...)

The EU Commission finds that Greek plans aimed at supporting the reduction of non-performing loans of Greek banks are in line with EU State aid rules
DG COMP (Brussels)
STATE AID: COMMISSION APPROVES MARKET CONFORM ASSET PROTECTION SCHEME FOR BANKS IN GREECE* The European Commission has found Greek plans aimed at supporting the reduction of non-performing loans of Greek banks to be free of any State aid. The Commission found that, under the asset protection (...)

The EU General Court delivers two judgments providing important guidance on the application of the arm’s length principle in the context of State aid investigations concerning tax measures (Fiat / Starbucks)
Van Bael & Bellis (Brussels)
On 24 September 2019, the General Court delivered two judgments in Cases T-755/15, Luxembourg v. Commission and T-759/15, Fiat Chrysler Finance Europe v. Commission, providing important guidance on the application of the arm’s length principle in the context of State aid investigations (...)

The EU General Court delivers two judgments providing guidance on the application of the arm’s length principle in the context of State aid investigations (Fiat / Starbucks)
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (Chicago)
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Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (Washington DC)
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Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (Brussels)
Introduction On September 24, 2019, the EU General Court (General Court) issued its long-awaited judgments in relation to the appeals brought against two European Commission (EC) decisions of 2015 concluding that tax rulings granted by The Netherlands and Luxembourg conferred illegal state aid (...)

The EU General Court delivers two judgments providing guidance on the application of the arm’s length principle in the context of State aid investigations (Fiat / Starbucks)
Arendt & Medernach (London)
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Arendt & Medernach (Luxembourg)
THE GENERAL COURT’S JUDGEMENT IN FFT: A CRITIQUE* In its judgments on 24 September in the FFT and Starbucks cases, the EU General Court gave its first view on the European Commission’s tax ruling decisions. These decisions were novel and complex in that they sought to assess whether the tax (...)

The EU General Court provides further guidance with regard to the concept of State aid in the context of fiscal measures favouring port authorities (Port autonome du Centre / Port de Bruxelles / Havenbedrijf Antwerpen)
Van Bael & Bellis (Brussels)
On 20 September 2019, the General Court delivered three judgments (Cases T-673/17, Port autonome du Centre and de l’Ouest and Others v. Commission, T-674/17, Le Port de Bruxelles and Région de Bruxelles-Capitale v. Commission, T-696/17, Havenbedrijf Antwerpen and Maatschappij van de Brugse (...)

The EU Court of Justice rules, upon request for a preliminary ruling, whether the Lithuanian scheme for the provision of public interest services in the electricity sector and of its financing scheme must be regarded as State aid (Achema / Orlen Lietuva / Lifosa / VKEKK)
DG ENERGY (Luxembourg)
The judgment of the Court of 15 May 2019 in case C-706/17, delivered upon a request for a preliminary ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (“Achema”), replicates the analysis which was previously established in Association Vent de Colère!. The judgment in Achema thus follows (...)

Procedures

The Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf suspends an order of the German Competition Authority on an alleged abuse of dominance in the social networks (Facebook) New
Baker Botts (London)
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Baker Botts (Washington)
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Baker Botts (Brussels)
On 26 August 2019, a German appeal court suspended an order of the German competition authority (the “FCO”) which had found that Facebook’s data processing practices in Germany constituted an abuse of dominance in breach of German antitrust rules (the “decision”). Expressing serious doubts as to the (...)

Regulatory

The US Assistant Attorney General Delrahim announces changes to the Justice Manual designed to incentivise antitrust compliance programs New
Baker Botts (Washington)
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Baker Botts (Washington)
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Baker Botts (Washington)
On July 11, 2019, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim announced changes to the Justice Manual designed to incentivize the implementation and use of antitrust compliance programs. Chief among these changes is a reversal of the Antitrust Division’s longstanding policy of refusing to (...)

The Japan Anti-Monopoly Act grants new powers to the Japanese Fair Trade Commission when accepting voluntary commitments from companies suspected of having infringed the Act New
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Tokyo)
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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Tokyo)
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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Tokyo)
Recent amendments to Japan’s Anti-Monopoly Act (AMA) that came into effect on 1 January 2019 give the country’s competition regulator, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), powers to accept voluntary commitments from companies suspected of having infringed the AMA. This will allow the JFTC to (...)

The Dutch Government submits its legislative proposal on the sustainability initiatives to the Dutch House of Representatives
Bird & Bird (The Hague)
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Bird & Bird (The Hague)
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Bird & Bird (The Hague)
COMPETITION LAW AND SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES: DUTCH BILL PROVIDES MORE LEEWAY* On 4 July 2019 a long-awaited Dutch legislative proposal regarding sustainability initiatives (“Wet ruimte voor duurzaamheidsinitiatieven“) was submitted to the Dutch House of Representatives. The proposal aims to (...)

The German Competition Authority publishes an annual report 2018 and a biannual activity report 2017/2018
Van Bael & Bellis (Brussels)
On 27 June 2019, the German Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) published its annual report 2018 and biannual activity report 2017/2018. The reports include statistics on the total amounts of fines, leniency applications and merger pro-ceedings, describe the FCO’s policies and the key cases which the (...)

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