C. Scott Hemphill and Nancy L. Rose on ‘Mergers that Harm Sellers’ (2018) Yale Law Journal 127(1) 2078

In typical mergers, the main concern is that the parties will be able to raise the prices they charge purchasers. Some mergers, however, reduce competition among competing buyers, thereby reducing the prices that sellers receive for their products and services. These adverse “buy-side” effects may harm a wide variety of sellers, including workers.  This paper, available here, examines the antitrust treatment of mergers that harm sellers. Its central claim is that harm to sellers in an input market is sufficient to support antitrust liability. Part I considers mergers that increase classical monopsony power. Monopsony is used here as the mirror image of monopoly, i.e. market power susceptible of affecting the price of inputs. Monopsony is a frequent concern in labour and agricultural markets. As with lawfully acquired monopoly power, antitrust law does not prohibit the exercise of lawfully acquired monopsony power, despite its economic costs. Yet antitrust problems do arise when buyers increase their monopsony power by combining forces. Agreements…

David Glasner and Sean P. Sullivan on ‘The Logic of Market Definition’ (forthcoming) Antitrust Law Journal

This paper,available here , is not technically about merger control, but it is as relevant here as in any other competition topic – and it fits nicely with wider discussions of market power and market entry, which, as we have seen in past weeks, are common in merger control. While the usefulness of, and methodologies concerning market definition would seem to be well established, in practice both are actively questioned. Some have even argued that market definition is unnecessary in competition law. While this argument is not new, Louis Kaplow has recently advanced this thesis with a particularly pointed argument that: (1) market definition serves no role except to produce market shares, (2) market shares are poor measures of market power, and (3) antitrust would be better served by ignoring market shares and trying to assess market power from estimates of residual-demand curves and the like instead. The goal of this paper is to trace the internal logic of market…

Tommaso Valletti and Hans Zenger on ‘Mergers with differentiated products: Where do we stand?’

This paper, available here, provides an overview of the state of economic analysis of unilateral effects in mergers with differentiated products. It discusses both static and dynamic competition. Section 2 focuses on price competition and discusses the calibration of unilateral effects using diversion-based tools such as upward pricing pressure. One of the most prominent developments of the past decades was to put closeness of substitution at the heart of unilateral effects analysis. It is well known that market shares can be off the mark in trying to account for consumers’ heterogeneous switching patterns between differentiated products. When robust data is available, it is therefore more sensible to assess competitive overlaps directly via diversion ratios than to rely on market shares as an imperfect proxy. Obtaining an estimate of diversion is feasible in many, though far from all, significant mergers (e.g., through switching data, bidding data, customer surveys, event studies or demand estimation). While diversion ratios provide a good indication of…

Volker Nocke and Michael D. Whinston on ‘Concentration Screens for Horizontal Mergers’ (2020) NBER Working Papers no 27533

Concentration measures play a central role in merger analysis. Existing guidelines identify various presumptions – both safe harbours and presumptions of anticompetitive effects – based on the level of the post-merger Herfindahl index and of the change that the merger induces in that index. These presumptions have a significant impact on agency decisions, especially in screening mergers for further review. However, the basis for these screens, in both form and level, remains unclear. The authors of this paper, available here, show that there is both a theoretical and an empirical basis for focusing solely on changes in the Herfindahl index, and ignoring its level, in screening mergers for whether their unilateral effects will harm consumers. The authors also argue that the levels at which the presumptions currently are set may allow mergers to proceed that cause consumer harm. Section 2 reviews concentration screens in various versions of the US Horizontal Merger Guidelines. The first version of the Merger Guidelines –…

Julian Nowag and Liisa Tarkkila on ‘How much effectiveness for the EU Damages Directive? Contractual clauses and antitrust damages’ (2020) Common Market Law Review 57 433

Market actors often include clauses in contracts which determine the jurisdiction, and/or forum in which any claim arising from the contract may be heard; or clauses which prohibit reassigning a claim or joining a class action. In some situations, these clauses may make it more difficult to obtain full compensation for a competition law infringement. Antitrust victims can be forced to bring damages actions in jurisdictions or before arbitrational tribunals that have less favourable cost and evidential rules; they may also encounter language-related problems. Similarly, preventing forms of collective redress has obvious benefits for defendants whenever a large number of victims only suffered very small individual harm. This paper, available here, explores the extent to which the aims of the Damages Directive and development of a strong EU private enforcement system in Member States’ courts might be undercut by such contractual arrangements. It argues that EU law protects consumers against clauses that could hinder the full effectiveness of the right to compensation…

Joshua Davies and Rose Kohles ‘Antitrust Annual Report – Class Action Filings in Federal Court’

This report, available here, reviews US federal class actions from 2013-2018. It looks at various statistics regarding US federal class actions over the years (with lots of graphs and pics). The Report provides a number of interesting insights without extensive analysis. It finds that: (i) a mean number of 420 complaints are filed per year in the US; (ii) most antitrust class actions that reached Final Approval did so within three to five years; (iii) the mean settlement amount varied by year from about $25 million to $42 million, and the median amount varied by year from about $5 million to $11 million; (iv) the total annual settlements ranged from about $1 billion to $5 billion per year; (v) the cumulative total of settlements was $19.3 billion from 2013-2018. While a mean average of 420 cases were filed a year between 2009 and 2018, there is significant variation year-on-year. This seems to be driven by the size of the industry…

Makan Delrahim ‘Merricks v MasterCard: ‘Passing On’ the US Experience’ (2020) Competition Policy International, May Column

Over the past few years, in addition to cooperating with international counterparts in many cases, the DoJ has made efforts to further common understandings on a variety of substantive and procedural antitrust issues. Developments in competition law, both substantive and procedural, can be driven by courts, particularly in countries that allow for private antitrust enforcement in the form of class actions. The upcoming decision of the UK Supreme Court in Merricks v. MasterCard is of interest to competition enforcers around the world because it involves novel questions on the proper approach to certification of an opt-out collective action — akin to a class action in the United States — brought by indirect purchasers. This essay, available here, aims to share the United States’ experiences confronting similar questions to those faced by the UK Supreme Court in this case – in particular, how the class representative can show “a realistic prospect of establishing loss on a class-wide basis,” and what should…

Michael D. Hausfeld, Irving Scher and Laurence T. Sorkin ‘In Defense of Class Actions: A Response to Makan Delrahim’s Commentary on the UK MasterCard Case’ (2020) Competition Policy International June

This article, available here, was written by lawyers of a US firm that is, in its own words, a ‘global leader on claimant focused competition damages practice’, enabling victims of anticompetitive conduct to obtain damages for harm suffered. This law firm acts for an intervenor, the Consumers’ Association, in the UK MasterCard proceedings that led to the US DoJ sending a letter to the UK’s Supreme Court. This piece is – as the title indicates – a reaction to that letter. The paper begins by framing the issue. The DoJ AAG’s letter to the UK Supreme Court provides an overview of class actions in the US. The authors agree with the general overview of Rule 23 provided by the Division. For example, few would argue with the proposition that, in the antitrust context, indirect purchaser class actions raise more difficult questions of commonality, impact, and manageability than direct purchaser class actions, even though harm may have been sustained at both…

Case review of Apple v. Pepper  Harvard Law Review (2019) 33 382

Since Illinois Brick, standing to sue for violation of US federal antitrust law has been reserved exclusively to those parties who purchased directly from price-setting monopolists or cartelists. Indirect purchasers, who transacted with these direct purchasers rather than with the monopolist itself, had no standing, even if the direct purchaser “passed on” the full cost of the monopolistic overcharge to them in the form of higher prices. The Court prohibited these pass-through arguments because it judged itself ill suited to efficiently determine what parts of an overcharge are passed on at any given stage in the chain of distribution. The Court also worried that allowing pass-through arguments would undermine deterrence, as indirect purchasers, who could not sue as effectively as direct purchasers, would be able to claim a portion of what would previously have gone to direct purchasers in a successful suit. Last year, however, the Supreme Court in Apple v Pepper held that app purchasers could sue Apple for…