Three Antitrust Developments to Watch in Wake of High Court’s “Ohio v. American Express” Ruling

swisherFeatured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — U.S. Department of Justice

By Anthony W. Swisher, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Baker Botts LLP

As vertical issues continue to attract attention in the world of antitrust, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ohio v. American Express was a long-awaited milestone.  The outcome of the decision was not surprising—many commenters had predicted that a Court that has generally been skeptical of antitrust plaintiffs would uphold the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s decision in favor of American Express—but a few features of the decision were noteworthy.

Recall that the case involved Amex’s use of non-discriminatory provisions, or “NDPs,” that prevent a merchant that accepts Amex cards from engaging in strategic behavior to steer customers toward use of a different payment card that might carry a lower transaction fee for the merchant. At issue was whether the NDPs constituted unreasonable restraints that suppressed interbrand competition by preventing merchants from favoring lower-cost payment methods by customers. Continue reading “Three Antitrust Developments to Watch in Wake of High Court’s “Ohio v. American Express” Ruling”

D.C. Circuit Further Clarifies Attorney-Client Privilege “Primary Purpose” Test

Featured Expert Contributor, White Collar Crime & Corporate Compliance

Brower_GregGregory A. Brower, a Shareholder with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP in Las Vegas, NV and Washington, DC.

In an unusually short, but to-the-point opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently reaffirmed that the attorney-client privilege applies to a communication between attorney and client if at “one of the significant purposes” of the communication was to obtain or provide legal advice.  The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  Judge Kavanaugh authored the unanimous opinion for the three-judge panel, which also included Judges Pillard and Randolph.  Continue reading “D.C. Circuit Further Clarifies Attorney-Client Privilege “Primary Purpose” Test”

The Eleventh Circuit Limits the FTC’s Authority to Challenge Practices as “Unfair”

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )Featured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

By M. Sean Royall and Richard H. Cunningham, Partners with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and Bennett Rawicki, Associate Attorney, all in the firm’s Dallas, TX office.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit’s recent LabMD, Inc. v. FTC decision imposes significant limits on the Federal Trade Commission’s freedom to prosecute and settle cases the agency pursues pursuant to the “unfair acts or practices” prong of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

Overview of the FTC’s Case Against LabMD

In 2013, the FTC brought an administrative enforcement action against LabMD alleging a Section 5 violation based on purported unfair data security practices.  Among other alleged deficiencies, LabMD failed to identify that a file-sharing program an employee installed on a company computer had for years been exposing confidential patient information to the public.  Continue reading “The Eleventh Circuit Limits the FTC’s Authority to Challenge Practices as “Unfair””

FTC Enforcement Powers Face Serious Challenge

FTC_Man_Controlling_TradeThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has long asserted broad authority to sue businesses for engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices.  But a recent federal court decision (Federal Trade Commission v. Shrire Viropharma Inc.) calls that authority into serious question.  If upheld on appeal, the decision could lead to major changes in the way FTC carries out its enforcement responsibilities.

The decision focused on § 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA).  That statute authorizes FTC to seek injunctive relief in federal court against anyone who “is violating, or is about to violate” a law enforced by FTC.  FTC has long contended that § 13(b) also authorizes actions against entities based on past violations, even in the absence of evidence that the entity “is about to” commit new violations.  A Delaware federal district judge’s rejection of that contention has thrown a monkey wrench into FTC’s enforcement apparatus. Continue reading “FTC Enforcement Powers Face Serious Challenge”

Tronox/Cristal Merger Fight Highlights the FTC/DOJ Divide in U.S. Merger Control Proceedings

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )Featured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

By M. Sean Royall and Richard H. Cunningham, Partners with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and Justin Epner, an Associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office.  The authors would like to thank Jasper Hicks, who is an Associate in Gibson Dunn’s Denver, CO office, for his substantial contributions to this post.

In early 2017, Mississippi-based titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment producer Tronox Limited (“Tronox”) agreed to purchase the TiO2 business of one of its rivals, Saudi Arabian producer Cristal (“Cristal”).  Alleging a horizontal competitive effects theory, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted in December 2017 to challenge the deal in its internal administrative court.  Roughly two months after the FTC initiated the administrative challenge, however, the litigation took an interesting and unusual turn—Tronox filed a federal lawsuit of its own against the Commission in the Northern District of Mississippi.  Continue reading “Tronox/Cristal Merger Fight Highlights the FTC/DOJ Divide in U.S. Merger Control Proceedings”

New Slate of Commissioners Should Elevate FTC’s Consideration of the First Amendment

FTC_Man_Controlling_TradeThe U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow, February 14, 2018, on the nominations of a new Chairman and three new Commissioners to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In recent years, FTC has become the primary national regulator of consumer data privacy and security, a responsibility that accords the Commission a staggering amount of influence over an American economy increasingly fueled by information.

When utilizing that authority over how businesses treat consumer data, the Commission has accorded little or no regard to the First Amendment. Data is speech, a reality that the incoming Chairman and Commissioners must incorporate into consumer-protection enforcement under § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Continue reading “New Slate of Commissioners Should Elevate FTC’s Consideration of the First Amendment”

With “LabMD” Decision Looming, FTC Workshop Delves into Privacy & Data Security Harms

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Guest Commentary

By Douglas H. Meal, Michelle Visser, and David T. Cohen, Partners with Ropes & Gray LLP.

For years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the primary consumer protection agency in the United States, has brought enforcement actions against companies on the basis that their alleged failure to use specified privacy and data security measures was purportedly an “unfair” business practice prohibited by § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.  But FTC in fact has no authority under § 5 to declare a practice “unfair” unless, among other things, it causes or is likely to cause substantial, unavoidable injury to consumers that is not outweighed by countervailing benefits.

What (if anything), then, is a “substantial” injury in the privacy and data security context, how should its likelihood be measured, and how should one measure the benefits and costs of particular practices? Continue reading “With “LabMD” Decision Looming, FTC Workshop Delves into Privacy & Data Security Harms”