Monday, November 8, 2021

Antitrust: Hart-Scott-Rodino Act

  • The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division released the agencies’ 43rd Annual Hart-Scott-Rodino Report. The report provides HSR Premerger Notification data for fiscal year 2020, and its release coincides with an unprecedented surge in pre-merger filings during the current fiscal year.

Deceptive or Misleading Conduct: Credit, Finance, and Debt Collection

  • The FTC obtained an order permanently banning Automatic Funds Transfer Services, Inc. (a payment processor) (AFTS) and its owner, Eric Johnson from processing debt relief payments. The FTC’s complaint against AFTS and Johnson, alleges that AFTS processed at least $31 million in consumer payments for a fraudulent student loan debt relief scheme sued by the FTC in 2019. The debt relief scheme used numerous names, including The Student Loan Group (SLG). Other allegations include the company and Johnson received complaints from, among others, consumers and banks; were aware that SLG had high return rates and was collecting illegal upfront fees from consumers; and knew that SLG kept changing company and brand names to, among other reasons, mitigate negative publicity. Despite numerous warning signs, AFTS and Johnson continued processing consumer payments for SLG right until the scheme was ultimately shut down following an enforcement action by the FTC. The settlement includes a monetary judgment of $27,584,969, which is largely suspended due to an inability to pay. Instead, AFTS and Johnson will be required to surrender $500,000 to the FTC.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Antitrust Competition and Mergers: Retail Grocery Stores

  • The FTC and The Golub Corp. (“Golub”), which owns the Price Chopper chain, and Tops Market Corp. have come to an agreement where Golub has agreed to divest 12 Tops supermarkets to C&S Wholesale Grocers to settle FTC charges that their proposed merger would likely be anticompetitive in 11 local markets across upstate New York and Vermont. The order also requires the parties to obtain the prior approval of the FTC before selling or acquiring supermarkets in the affected markets. The proposed Decision and Order requires Price Chopper and Tops to divest the 12 Tops stores beginning January 17, 2022.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Antitrust Competition and Mergers: Pharmaceuticals

  • The FTC will require generic drug marketers ANI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Novitium Pharma LLC to divest, to Prasco LLC, ANI’s development rights to one generic drug used to treat common infections and assets with respect to another generic drug used to treat inflammation as part of a settlement resolving charges that ANI’s $210 million acquisition of Novitium likely would be anticompetitive. The divestitures are for generic sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim oral suspension, also known as SMX-TMP, and generic dexamethasone tablets. Generic SMX-TMP oral suspension is an antibiotic used to treat a variety of infections, including ear infections, urinary tract infections, and bronchitis. ANI is a current participant in this market, while Novitium is one of a limited number of companies well positioned to enter. Generic dexamethasone tablets are an oral steroid product used to treat inflammation associated with a variety of conditions, including certain types of arthritis, allergic reactions, skin diseases, and breathing problems. Prasco is prohibited under the order from selling the acquired products for a combined period of 10 years after the order is issued, except to an acquirer that receives prior approval from the Commission.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Bureaus of Competition, Consumer Protection, and Economics: FTC Operations

  • The FTC has released a preliminary draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022 to 2026 for public review and comment. The FTC’s last updated strategic plan was prepared in FY 2018, and the current draft tracks closely to that iteration. The FTC welcomes feedback on how the draft plan could be adjusted to reflect the agency’s reinvigorated approach to addressing harms to American consumers, workers, and honest businesses.