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Antitrust / Competition

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued its highly anticipated final rule on noncompetes, imposing a near-total ban on worker noncompetes in the United States. Barring injunctive relief from legal challenges (which have already started), the rule will take effect 120 days from publication in the federal register.

On April 10, 2024, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division announced that it had secured a guilty plea from a fuel truck company owner for conspiracy to monopolize trade in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. This policy shift has expanded the scope of the DOJ’s criminal antitrust enforcement agenda. Accordingly, companies should ensure that their employees are properly complying with antitrust regulations and continue to monitor as this revived area of antitrust law develops.

The Canadian Competition Bureau (“Bureau”) has announced a significant initiative to explore the effects of artificial intelligence (“AI”) on competition in Canada. On 20 March 2024, the Bureau published a discussion paper, entitled “Artificial intelligence and competition” (“Discussion Paper”), and has requested feedback from the public. The Bureau is seeking to better understand how AI can affect competition in Canada. Submissions are due by 4 May 2024.

This week we kicked off our Annual Compliance Conference with key antitrust compliance topics that are impacting businesses today. Specifically, we discussed antitrust risk and enforcement in relation to vertical agreements, and how to manage compliance risk in the context of transactions.

On 10 April 2024, the Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers MP announced a major change to Australia’s merger control regime with the introduction of a new single mandatory, suspensory merger control system. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will be the key decision maker and given stronger powers to examine transactions, including serial acquisitions and mergers by businesses with substantial market power. The notification thresholds remain a critical unknown piece and will be subject to further consultation.

Both the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (collectively, “Agencies”) have submitted a joint Statement of Interest in a third-party dispute currently active in the Federal District of New Jersey. The Statement clarifies the Agencies’ positions on price fixing through the use of algorithms. The third-party dispute involves a class action against casino hotels in the Atlantic City, New Jersey area.

In the latest update of the Indonesian Competition Commission (Komisi Pengawas Persaingan Usaha, “KPPU”) online filing portal, a dual (double) nexus assessment Q&A is now required to be filled in by companies that submit a merger control notification. Although the KPPU has not issued any update to their merger filing guideline, this new questionnaire confirms how the KPPU assesses the dual nexus requirement for offshore transactions.

On 4 April 2024, the Executive Regulation of the new Egyptian pre-merger control regime was officially published by Prime Minister Decree No. 1120 of 2024. The ER introduces the implementing regulations for the newly established pre-merger control regime issued by the Law number 175 of 2022 which empowers the Egyptian Competition Authority with significant powers in reviewing and approving transactions. The ER states that it will enter into force on 1 June 2024, i.e. transactions that close on or after 1 June 2024, and meet the prescribed thresholds, must obtain prior approval from the ECA.

In the last few days, the Superintendence of Companies ( “SoC”) has begun to invite various companies under its surveillance and control to participate, on a voluntary basis, in a diagnostic exercise on the implementation of sustainable practices. This is in accordance with Chapter XV of the Basic Legal Circular of the SoC: “Administrative Recommendations for the Submission of the Sustainability Report”.

On 6 March 2024, California Assistant Attorney General Paula Blizzard announced at the American Bar Association’s annual National Institute on White Collar Crime the state’s intentions to reinvigorate criminal enforcement of the Cartwright Act, California’s primary antitrust statute. California has not criminally prosecuted violations of the Cartwright Act in 25 years. Blizzard’s announcement comes shortly after California enacted legislation to codify restrictions against no-poach and non-compete clauses. All-in-all, state officials appear poised to follow in the Biden administration’s footsteps and increase antitrust enforcement. Companies should be on notice of certain states like California that are taking steps to strengthen antitrust enforcement and alleged agreements to fix prices, divide markets, and rig bids could soon lead to criminal penalties under either state or federal statutes.