AGs in the News: Antitrust
Illinois LCD Lawsuit Settled; Claims Being Taken (Apr. 12, 2016)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against several electronics manufacturers, including Sharp, Hitachi, LGDisplay, and Epson. The suit alleges these companies artificially fixed the prices of their liquid crystal displays. Since these screens are found in a variety of electronics, such as TVs, phones, and gaming devices, Madigan says prices ended up being much higher for Illinois citizens than if the companies had not colluded.
Attorney General Lori Swanson Reviews Possible Merger of Care Providers (March 17, 2016)
Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson has launched an antitrust review of a possible merger between two large primary care providers in the St. Cloud area. CentraCare is one of the 10 largest operators of hospitals and clinics in the state, with more than 260 physicians and 85 advanced practice providers. St. Cloud Medical Group has about 60 providers. It says the integration makes sense since CentraCare operates the only hospital in St. Cloud.
Maryland AG Files Civil Complaint Against Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. (March 4, 2016)
Attorney General Frosh said that the Office of the Attorney General Antitrust Division has filed a civil complaint charging Florida-based Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., the makers of Acuvue lenses, with violations of the Maryland Antitrust Act. The complaint seeks civil penalties and an end to the anti-competitive pricing policy.
15 State AGs Join Federal Antitrust Probe of Giant Health Insurers’ Mergers: Reuters (Jan. 12, 2016)
About 15 state attorneys general have joined the Justice Department’s probe of two big insurance mergers, according to people familiar with the matter, increasing the scrutiny on proposed deals that would reduce the number of nationwide health insurers to three from five.
A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement with United Health Group Protecting Competition in Elder Care (Jan. 7, 2016)
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with UnitedHealth Group resolving concerns that United’s business practices in New York unlawfully restrained competition in the market for certain elder and long term care insurance products. The settlement provides that United may not require skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) seeking to participate in United’s broader insurance network to also contract with United for a separate service – United’s institutional special needs plan (I-SNP).
AG's Office Issues Additional Reports on Steward Health Care System Under Five-Year Monitoring Agreement (Dec. 30, 2015)
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey released the second set of the office’s reports pdf format of Reports on Steward Health Care System evaluating Steward Health Care System following its acquisition of Caritas Christi Health Care and subsequent hospitals. In connection with its approval of Steward’s acquisition of non-profit Caritas Christi Health Care in November 2010, the Attorney General’s Office executed an agreement with Steward to monitor its impact on the Massachusetts health care market and to enforce specific provisions of the purchase agreement related to the public interest. Subsequent agreements were executed following Steward’s acquisition of Morton Hospital and Quincy Medical Center.
State attorney general sues Chesapeake Energy over gas royalties (Dec. 9, 2015)
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office is suing Chesapeake Energy Corp. and three of its affiliated companies for allegedly underpaying landowners tens of millions of dollars worth of royalties from the company’s natural gas operations in the state. The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas, accuses Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake of deceiving landowners as it sought to secure a broad leasehold in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, especially in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Cargill's road salt unit settles antitrust lawsuit brought by Ohio (June 3, 2015)
Cargill and Morton Salt Wednesday said they have settled an antitrust lawsuit over road salt prices filed by the Ohio attorney general’s office. The two road salt giants together agreed to pay $11.5 million, with Minnetonka-based Cargill ponying up $7.7 million. Ohio accused Cargill and Chicago-based Morton of conspiring with each other, causing state and local governments to pay higher prices for road salt for about a decade, ending in 2010. The settlement does not include admission of guilt by either Cargill or Morton.
Kentucky attorney general sues Marathon over gas prices (May 12, 2015)
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway sued Marathon Petroleum Co. on Tuesday, claiming its control of the state's wholesale gasoline market has "been allowed to run rampant" and results in higher prices at the pump. The federal lawsuit alleges the company violated federal and state antitrust laws. The suit seeks to break Marathon's monopolistic grip to allow greater competition in the market to benefit consumers, Conway said at a press conference.
Tour Bus Companies Agree to Settle Antitrust Lawsuit (Mar. 16, 2015)
Two of New York City’s biggest tour bus operators have agreed to pay $7.5 million and give up nearly 50 of their stops in Manhattan to settle an antitrust lawsuit brought by state and federal officials. The proposed settlement, announced on Monday night by the Justice Department and the New York attorney general, could reshape an industry that officials said the two companies, City Sights and Gray Line New York, effectively monopolized after forming a joint venture called Twin America.
Judge In Actavis Antitrust Suit Keeps Namenda On Market (Dec. 11, 2014)
A New York federal judge has granted the state's attorney general's request to block Actavis PLC from pulling its widely used dementia drug Namenda from the market as the office pursues antitrust claims against Actavis for allegedly forcing patients to switch medications, the parties announced Thursday. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's suit accuses Actavis and its New York-based subsidiary Forest Laboratories LLC of planning to halt sales of Namenda and force patients to switch to a new, extended-release verson of the medication to thwart competition.
Encana Puts Up $5M To Settle Oil Lease Antitrust Charges (May 5, 2014)
Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. agreed to pay $5 million to settle charges that the energy company colluded with Chesapeake Energy Corp. to avoid a bidding war over Michigan gas and oil leases in 2010, the state’s attorney general said Monday.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Reaches $4 Million Settlement with eBay over Anticompetitive “No-Poach” Agreement with Intuit (May 1, 2014)
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced a nearly $4 million settlement with eBay over allegations the company violated state anticompetitive laws by making a “no-poach” agreement with Intuit between 2006 and 2009.
Minnesota Attorney General Calls for Scrutiny of Proposed Sysco/US Foods Merger (December 19, 2014)
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson expressed concern about the merger in a recent letter to the Federal Trade Commission but did not object to the deal. Swanson said that she was writing at the behest of Minnesota's restaurateurs who complained that the deal would give them "fewer choices among distributors and potentially [result] in higher prices for consumers."
Schneiderman Raises Antitrust Concerns Over Nuhealth/North Shore-LIJ Partnership (October 19, 2013)
State AG Eric Schneiderman is raising antitrust concerns over a bill that would let Nassau Health Care Corp. join with North Shore-LIJ Health System to run certain facilities. Schneiderman is concerned that the partnership could violate laws meant to protect patients and prevent one entity from accumulating too much market power.
FTC and PA Attorney General Seek to Block Reading Health System's Proposed Acquisition of Surgical Institute of Reading (Nov. 21)
The FTC and Pennsylvania Attorney General have jointly filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to block Reading Health System’s proposed acquisition of the Surgical Institute of Reading (SIR), pending administrative review by the FTC. The complaint alleges that the acquisition would reduce competition in four markets in which the two entities compete, and would lead to the new entity controlling market shares from 49% to 71%.
NC Attorney General Eyes "Artificial" Hospital Pricing (Oct. 6)
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has announced an investigation into hospital pricing and is considering whether to use antitrust laws or new legislation to address the problem. AG Cooper says that the problem may be a result of hospital consolidation and said that his office will speak with officials from the Federal Trade Commission and other states who have used antitrust laws to investigate consolidation. However, AG Cooper added that antitrust laws are difficult to enforce and that more effective might be new legislation designed to limit the effects of hospital mergers on pricing. A number of hospital systems in NC have grown rapidly in recent years, while small, rural hospitals are struggling financially and feeling pressure to join with larger hospital systems. Read more here
E-Book Publishers Reach $69 Million Settlement with States (August 30, 2012)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced that the attorneys general of 54 states, districts, and territories had reached an antitrust settlement with three publishers of e-books. The publishers, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, and Simon & Schuster agreed to the settlement while Apple, Penguin Group, and MacMillan have not settled. The attorneys general had filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York following a two-year antitrust investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys general of Connecticut and Texas. The investigation found that the publishers had worked with Apple to set prices for e-books and limit the discount available for retailers to provide.
Ohio Attorney General Sues Morton Salt and Cargill, Accuses Them of Road Salt Price-Fixing (March 22, 2012)
Salt-mining companies Cargill and Morton Salt coordinated over the past decade to keep road salt prices artificially high, resulting in prices up to $50 million above market prices, according to an antitrust lawsuit filed Wednesday by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The two companies divided the Ohio market, covertly agreeing not to compete, submitting bids designed to conceal their conspiracy and to prevent competitors from obtaining state business. The lawsuit seeks an order severing the companies' contracts with the state, as well as repayment of their “ill-gotten gains” to the Ohio Department of Transportation and other agencies.
Judge Rules Against FTC, State Action Doctrine Protects Georgia Hospital Merger (December 12, 2011)
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on December 9, 2011 that state action doctrine immunized the hospital merger of Phoebe Putney Health System and Palmyra Park Hospital in Albany, Georgia from antitrust laws. Together the hospitals control 86 percent of the relevant market. The FTC argued that the merger would "cause consumers and employers in the Albany region to pay dramatically higher rates for vital health care services, and will likely reduce the quality and choice of services available in the community as well." The hospitals did not dispute the monopoly charge but argued instead that they were immune under the state-action doctrine. Memorial was not a private hospital but operated by a regional hospital authority, which the Georgia legislature authorized in a 1941 law. Thus, the court ruled, the issue was whether the state authorized the action for policy reasons that one would reasonably anticipate had a foreseeable anticompetitive effect.
New Jersey Attorney General Approves Hospital Merger (December. 8, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced the approval of the merger of St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network and Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg. The owner of Easton Hospital, Community Health Systems, had objected to the merger, claiming to have offered a better deal. The merger must still be approved by the New Jersey Superior Court before it can be finalized.
Proposed Sale of Florida Gas Pipeline Ignites Antitrust Concerns (July 15, 2001)
The Williams Co.’s proposed purchase of natural gas conveyor Southern Union Co. could affect service to Central Florida and violate antitrust regulations. Because each firm owns natural gas pipelines that serve Central Florida, if Williams is successful in its acquisition it would have monopoly over both pipes. Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office has stated that it is monitoring the matter closely and will participate in a review by federal antitrust offices. In 2001, the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida attorney general's office blocked the sale of the planned Gulfstream Pipeline to the same company that owned the Florida Gas Transmission Pipeline.
Nine States Subpoena AT&T, Sprint in Reviews of T-Mobile Bid (July 12, 2011)
Sprint Nextel Corp has been subpoenaed by the states of Arizona Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, in connection with antitrust reviews. The states seek data on customer habits, including when consumers switch carriers, which would help their regulators evaluate the level of competition in their respective markets. James Donahue, a chief deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania, emphasizes that the state is currently taking in all of the information, and no conclusions have been reached. Sprint was required to disclose the requests for information under terms of a protective order issued by the FCC, which is reviewing the transaction announced on March 20 in tandem with the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
New York AG has Antitrust Concerns with NFL Lockout (July 7, 2011)
New York Attorney Eric Schneiderman has expressed concerns that the National Football League’s lockout is threatening New York’s economy, and is reportedly investigating whether the lockout violates New York antitrust law. The lockout is the result of the failure to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement, which could lead to the shortening or cancellation of the entire season. Three teams—the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, and New York Jet—hold their training camps in New York, and thus the lockout could have an impact on the state’s economy. The lockout will be investigated under the Donnelly Act, which punishes conduct that harms competition, and allows for treble damages.
Utah AG Seeks Legal Team to File BCS Antitrust Lawsuit (June 30, 2011)
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on Wednesday put out the call for law firms interested in taking on the BCS through a federal lawsuit that seeks to have the bowl series declared an illegal monopoly. The lawsuit will seek damages for so-called ‘non-BCS schools’ that have lost out on millions of dollars over the years because the existing system keeps such non-preferred conferences such as the Mountain West — Utah’s former conference home — at a competitive disadvantage, Shurtleff has said. He further remarked that antitrust violations involving taxpayer-funded institutions need to be examined, especially when many such institutions are hurting, raising tuition or asking for more general fund money to help sustain them.
Four States Join Texas AG in Launching Several Antitrust Inquiries into Google (June 24, 2011)
Google is facing escalating antitrust pressure following the launch of several inquiries by California, New York, and Ohio into its potential threat to online search-engine competition. The inquires, which follow an investigation by the AG of Texas last year, come as federal authorities move close to a full-blown investigation of their own. The widening number of jurisdictions where Google is facing competition probes threatens to stretch its resources and distract its senior management in similar ways to Microsoft, a company that has similarly faced numerous inquiries over the past decade. The states that have recently joined the inquiries into Google are still at an early stage in their deliberations.
Nevada AG Fines UnitedHealth $1 Million (June 24, 2011)
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has fined UnitedHealth Group Inc. $1 million for violating an antitrust agreement with the state. According to the agreement, which set a penalty of $100,000 per intentional violation, UnitedHealth was allowed to acquire Sierra Health Services Inc. as long as it would not attempt to buy Fiserv Nevada. UnitedHealth, in violation of the agreement, acquired both companies, further reducing competition in Nevada. UnitedHealth asserts that it did not violation the agreement because the company did not acquire an interest in, or engage in a joint venture with Fiserv.