Antitrust Lawyer Blog Commentary on Current Developments

Articles Tagged with consummated merger

The federal antitrust agencies continue their emphasis on investigating, challenging, and unwinding consummated transactions that are not reportable under the Hart Scott Rodino (“HSR”) Act.

Most recently, on November 6, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued an Opinion and Final Order in which the Commission upheld the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision that Otto Bock HealthCare North America, Inc.’s (“Otto Bock”) acquisition of FIH Group Holdings, LLC (“Freedom”) was anticompetitive and that Otto Bock must divest Freedom’s entire business with the limited exceptions granted by the ALJ.  The Commission’s order was approved by all five commissioners and continues the trend of unwinding  consummated acquisitions that are deemed to be anticompetitive.

Indeed, corporate executives that enter into non-reportable acquisitions of their competitors must be aware that in some cases these deals entail significant antitrust risk.  Just because the deal is not reportable under the HSR Act does not mean that the federal or state antitrust agencies won’t investigate, challenge, and unwind it.  The FTC and DOJ have either completely unwound or forced partial divestitures in a number of small non-reportable deals including Magnesium Elektron/Revere Graphics, a $15 million deal; George’s/Tysons, a $3 million deal; Dun & Bradstreet’s $29 million deal; Charlotte Pipe/Star Pipe, a #19 million deal; Renown Health’s $3 and $4 million deals, BazaarVoice/Power Reviews; and the list goes on. In addition to forcing divestitures, the DOJ and the New York State Attorney General actually obtained disgorgement of profits in one non-reportable transaction.  So, buyers must be aware of the risks of closing a non-reportable transaction that eliminates competition.

Historically, the FTC and DOJ have sought to unwind consummated mergers that are deemed to be anticompetitive.  During Trump’s first year in office, the FTC and DOJ have demonstrated their willingness to unwind anticompetitive mergers that somehow sneaked by the regulators.

FTC Seeks to Unwind Merger of Prosthetic Knee Manufacturers

On December 20, 2017, the FTC filed an administrative complaint to unwind the merger of Otto Bock HealthCare North America, Inc., (“Otto Bock”) and FIH Group Holdings, LLC (“Freedom”), two manufacturers of prosthetic knees equipped with microprocessors that adapt the joint to surface conditions and walking rhythm.  In September 2017, the parties simultaneously signed a merger agreement and consummated the merger without the FTC having an opportunity to review the deal.  Apparently, the merger was not HSR reportable.  According to the FTC, the merger eliminated direct and substantial competition between head to head competitors that engaged in intense price and innovation competition.  While the litigation is ongoing, the parties agreed to a Hold Separate and Asset Maintenance Agreement, which prevents them from continuing the integration of the two businesses.  The FTC did not allege any violation of the HSR ACT.

On December 20, 2017, the FTC issued an administrative complaint seeking to unwind a merger between prosthetic knee manufacturers Otto Bock HealthCare North America, Inc. (“Otto Bock”) and FIH Group Holdings, LLC (“Freedom”).

Background

On September 22, 2017, Otto Bock and Freedom simultaneously executed a merger agreement and consummated their merger.  Within four days of the acquisition, Freedom noted in its September 26, 2017 press release that “Otto Bock strengthens its position in prosethetics” and that the deal combined the #1 and #3 players in the field of prosethetics in the United States.  It further went on to state that “antitrust issues have already been clarified” so they closed the merger and Otto Bock then took steps to integrate Freedom’s business, including personnel, intellectual property, know-how, and other critical assets.

On March 16, 2015, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and New York State Attorney General announced that they reached a settlement with Coach USA Inc., City Sights LLC and their joint venture, Twin America LLC, to remedy competition concerns in the New York City hop-on, hop-off bus tour market.  This case is noteworthy because it is the first time the DOJ’s Antitrust Division sought and obtained disgorgement in a consummated merger matter.

Background

In March of 2009, Twin America, LLC was formed by Coach USA, Inc. and City Sights, LLC.  Coach USA and City Sights were operators of double-decker tour buses that had aggressively competed against each other to attract customers, which were and are for the most part, visitors/sightseers in New York city.  Indeed, the Antitrust Division’s complaint alleged that prior to the formation of Twin America, LLC, Coach USA, the long-standing market leader through its “Gray Line New York” brand, and City Sights, a firm that launched the “City Sights NY” brand in 2005, accounted for approximately 99 percent of the hop-on, hop-off bus tour market in New York City.  Between 2005 and early 2009, the two companies engaged in vigorous head-to-head competition on price and product offerings that directly benefited consumers.

On January 6, 2005, the Commission ruled that Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (“CB&I”) illegally acquired Pitt-Des Moines, Inc.’s (“PDM”) Engineered Construction and Water Divisions. The FTC did not initially investigate the deal when the parties filed their Hart Scott Rodino notification forms. Eight months after the HSR waiting period expired, the FTC challenged the merger administratively before an FTC Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The CB&I case serves as a powerful reminder that the expiration of the HSR waiting period does not mean that the transaction has been approved by the FTC or cleared from a potential challenge.

According to Commissioner Swindle’s thorough and well-reasoned ruling, on behalf of a unanimous Commission, the acquisition provided CB&I with a monopoly or near-monopoly position in each of four relevant markets and violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act and Section 5 of the FTC Act. To restore competition as it existed prior to the merger, the Commission ordered CB&I to create two separate, stand-alone divisions capable of competing in the relevant markets and to divest one of those divisions within six months. The Commission’s goal is to restore competition as it existed prior to the merger.

Background