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Antitrust / Competition


PE investors need to be attuned to antitrust issues, particularly on the sell side, when investing in technology given the current US Federal Trade Commission’s aggressive approach to enforcement and focus on big tech. National security concerns and data security also loom large. Download the full PEI Keynote Interview to understand how antitrust, national security and data protection issues are key to PE firms when executing deals in the technology industry.

On 1 November 2023, the Board of the General Authority for Competition announced that new financial thresholds would apply to determine whether a transaction is reportable to the Authority. By implementing such change, the aim of the Authority is to provide further clarity on the local nexus test required for a transaction to be notifiable to the Authority and to align the Saudi merger control regime further with international standards.

Last year, we warned that the Federal Trade Commission was starting to go after directors, owners and private equity firms in control of entities that violated American antitrust laws. That has now proven true.
On 21 September, the FTC filed a 106-page complaint in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas against US Anesthesia Partners Inc. and its private equity investor, Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe XI LP.

In the ongoing debate concerning data broker regulation, trade-offs between competition and privacy are not always holistically appreciated. This article — originally published in Competition Policy International’s TechReg Chronicle — examines the importance of data protection for individual privacy and access to data for competition, discusses the role of data brokers in data privacy and sharing, and reviews existing, new, and proposed regulations of data brokers who now face additional and varying restrictions in state and federal privacy and consumer protection laws that will increase their compliance costs.

Law no. 137 of 9 October 2023 introduced the offences of Bid Rigging (Article 353 of the Criminal Code), Interference with the Tender Process (Article 353-bis of the Criminal Code) and Fraudulent Transfer of Values (Article 512-bis of the Criminal Code) in the list of predicate crimes pursuant to Legislative Decree no. 231/2001.

The new EU foreign subsidies regime will impact all multinational companies regardless of their country of origin. As of 12 October 2023, companies engaging in large transactions and bidding for large public procurement contracts in the EU are obliged to seek prior clearance from the European Commission. Implementing rules provide some welcome reporting relief, but the notification process requires that companies put in place mechanisms to track in real time a wide range of foreign financial contributions granted directly or indirectly from non-EU state funding

In a notable turn of events, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it would abandon its in-house post-consummation challenge of the 2018 acquisition by Axon Enterprise, Inc. of VieVu, LLC. The FTC’s decision follows a recent adverse ruling from the Supreme Court, which held that parties are entitled to assert constitutional challenges against the FTC before being required to participate in its administrative proceedings. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the FTC is likely to confront more challenges when pursuing enforcement actions—including, in particular, merger challenges—through its in-house administrative proceedings.

On 4 October 2023, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco of the U.S. Department of Justice announced a new DOJ-wide policy that seeks to provide greater certainty as to the potential benefits to acquirers that uncover criminal conduct at a target company. The DOJ’s Mergers & Acquisitions Safe Harbor Policy for voluntary self-disclosures provides greater certainty to acquirers who self-report within the safe harbor period, fully cooperate with the DOJ in its investigation, and engage in requisite, timely, and appropriate remediation, pay restitution, and disgorge any ill-gotten gains.

The Ministry of Trade has published Regulation No. 31 of 2023 on Provisions on Business Licensing, Advertisement, Development and Supervision of Business Actors in Electronic Systems Trading (“Regulation 31”), which came into force on 26 September and revoked Minister of Trade Regulation No. 50 of 2020 on the same subject matter. This alert highlights that Regulation 31 now identifies social-commerce platforms (i.e., those platforms that feature social media functionalities) within the sphere of e-commerce operators’ business models. Regulation 31 introduces significant new restrictions on the activities of foreign merchants and e-commerce operators.