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January 11, 2019 |
2018 Year-End German Law Update

Click for PDF Looking back at the past year’s cacophony of voices in a world trying to negotiate a new balance of powers, it appeared that Germany was disturbingly silent, on both the global and European stage. Instead of helping shape the new global agenda that is in the making, German politics focused on sorting out the vacuum created by a Federal election result which left no clear winner other than a newly formed right wing nationalist populist party mostly comprised of so called Wutbürger (the new prong for “citizens in anger”) that managed to attract 12.6 % of the vote to become the third strongest party in the German Federal Parliament. The relaunching of the Grand-Coalition in March after months of agonizing coalition talks was followed by a bumpy start leading into another session of federal state elections in Bavaria and Hesse that created more distraction. When normal business was finally resumed in November, a year had passed by with few meaningful initiatives formed or significant business accomplished. In short, while the world was spinning, Germany allowed itself a year’s time-out from international affairs. The result is reflected in this year’s update, where the most meaningful legal developments were either triggered by European initiatives, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) (see below section 4.1) or the New Transparency Rules for Listed German Companies (see below section 1.2), or as a result of landmark rulings of German or international higher and supreme courts (see below Corporate M&A sections 1.1 and 1.4; Tax – sections 2.1 and 2.2 and Labor and Employment – section 4.2). In fairness, shortly before the winter break at least a few other legal statutes have been rushed through parliament that are also covered by this update. Of the changes that are likely to have the most profound impact on the corporate world, as well as on the individual lives of the currently more than 500 million inhabitants of the EU-28, the GDPR, in our view, walks away with the first prize. The GDPR has created a unified legal system with bold concepts and strong mechanisms to protect individual rights to one’s personal data, combined with hefty fines in case of the violation of its rules. As such, the GDPR stands out as a glowing example for the EU’s aspiration to protect the civic rights of its citizens, but also has the potential to create a major exposure for EU-based companies processing and handling data globally, as well as for non EU-based companies doing business in Europe. On a more strategic scale, the GDPR also creates a challenge for Europe in the global race for supremacy in a AI-driven world fueled by unrestricted access to data – the gold of the digital age. The German government could not resist infection with the virus called protectionism, this time around coming in the form of greater scrutiny imposed on foreign direct investments into German companies being considered as “strategic” or “sensitive” (see below section 1.3 – Germany Tightens Rules on Foreign Takeovers Even Further). Protecting sensitive industries from “unwanted” foreign investors, at first glance, sounds like a laudable cause. However, for a country like Germany that derives most of its wealth and success from exporting its ideas, products and services, a more liberal approach to foreign investments would seem to be more appropriate, and it remains to be seen how the new rules will be enforced in practice going forward. The remarkable success of the German economy over the last twenty five years had its foundation in the abandoning of protectionism, the creation of an almost global market place for German products, and an increasing global adoption of the rule of law. All these building blocks of the recent German economic success have been under severe attack in the last year. This is definitely not the time for Germany to let another year go by idly. We use this opportunity to thank you for your trust and confidence in our ability to support you in your most complicated and important business decisions and to help you form your views and strategies to deal with sophisticated German legal issues. Without our daily interaction with your real-world questions and tasks, our expertise would be missing the focus and color to draw an accurate picture of the multifaceted world we are living in. In this respect, we thank you for making us better lawyers – every day. ________________________ TABLE OF CONTENTS 1.      Corporate, M&A 2.      Tax 3.      Financing and Restructuring 4.      Labor and Employment 5.      Real Estate 6.      Compliance 7.      Antitrust and Merger Control 8.      Litigation 9.      IP & Technology 10.    International Trade, Sanctions and Export Controls ________________________ 1.       Corporate, M&A 1.1       Further Development regarding D&O Liability of the Supervisory Board in a German Stock Corporation In its famous “ARAG/Garmenbeck”-decision in 1997, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) first established the obligation of the supervisory board of a German Stock Corporation (Aktiengesellschaft) to pursue the company’s D&O liability claims in the name of the company against its own management board after having examined the existence and enforceability of such claims. Given the very limited discretion the court has granted to the supervisory board not to bring such a claim and the supervisory board’s own liability arising from inactivity, the number of claims brought by companies against their (former) management board members has risen significantly since this decision. In its recent decision dated September 18, 2018, the BGH ruled on the related follow-up question about when the statute of limitations should start to run with respect to compensation claims brought by the company against a supervisory board member who has failed to pursue the company’s D&O liability claims against the board of management within the statutory limitation period. The BGH clarified that the statute of limitation applicable to the company’s compensation claims against the inactive supervisory board member (namely ten years in case of a publicly listed company, otherwise five years) should not begin to run until the company’s compensation claims against the management board member have become time-barred themselves. With that decision, the court adopts the view that in cases of inactivity, the period of limitations should not start to run until the last chance for the filing of an underlying claim has passed. In addition, the BGH in its decision confirmed the supervisory board’s obligation to also pursue the company’s claims against the board of management in cases where the management board member’s misconduct is linked to the supervisory board’s own misconduct (e.g. through a violation of supervisory duties). Even in cases where the pursuit of claims against the board of management would force the supervisory board to disclose its own misconduct, such “self-incrimination” does not release the supervisory board from its duty to pursue the claims given the preponderance of the company’s interests in an effective supervisory board, the court reasoned. In practice, the recent decision will result in a significant extension of the D&O liability of supervisory board members. Against that backdrop, supervisory board members are well advised to examine the existence of the company’s compensation claims against the board of management in a timely fashion and to pursue the filing of such claims, if any, as soon as possible. If the board of management’s misconduct is linked to parallel misconduct of the supervisory board itself, the relevant supervisory board member – if not exceptionally released from pursuing such claim and depending on the relevant facts and circumstances – often finds her- or himself in a conflict of interest arising from such self-incrimination in connection with the pursuit of the claims. In such a situation, the supervisory board member might consider resigning from office in order to avoid a conflict of interest arising from such self-incrimination in connection with the pursuit of the claims. Back to Top 1.2       Upcoming New Transparency Rules for Listed German Companies as well as Institutional Investors, Asset Managers and Proxy Advisors In mid-October 2018, the German Federal Ministry of Justice finally presented the long-awaited draft for an act implementing the revised European Shareholders’ Rights Directive (Directive (EU) 2017/828). The Directive aims to encourage long-term shareholder engagement by facilitating the communication between shareholders and companies, in particular across borders, and will need to be implemented into German law by June 10, 2019 at the latest. The new rules primarily target listed German companies and provide some major changes with respect to the “say on pay” provisions, as well as additional approval and disclosure requirements for related party transactions, the transmission of information between a stock corporation and its shareholders and additional transparency and reporting requirements for institutional investors, asset managers and proxy advisors. “Say on pay” on directors’ remuneration: remuneration policy and remuneration report Under the current law, the shareholders determine the remuneration of the supervisory board members at a shareholder meeting, whereas the remuneration of the management board members is decided by the supervisory board. The law only provides for the possibility of an additional shareholder vote on the management board members’ remuneration if such vote is put on the agenda by the management and supervisory boards in their sole discretion. Even then, such vote has no legal effects whatsoever (“voluntary say on pay”). In the future, shareholders of German listed companies will have two options. First, the supervisory board will have to prepare a detailed remuneration policy for the management board, which must be submitted to the shareholders if there are major changes to the remuneration, and in any event at least once every four years (“mandatory say on pay”). That said, the result of the vote on the policy will continue to remain only advisory. However, if the supervisory board adopts a remuneration policy that has been rejected by the shareholders, it will then be required to submit a reviewed (not necessarily revised) remuneration policy to the shareholders at the next shareholders’ meeting. With respect to the remuneration of supervisory board members, the new rules require a shareholders vote at least once every four years. Second, at the annual shareholders’ meeting the shareholders will vote ex post on the remuneration report (which is also reviewed by the statutory auditor) which contains the remuneration granted to the present and former members of the management board and the supervisory board in the past financial year. Again, the shareholders’ vote, however, will only be advisory. Both the remuneration report including the audit report, as well as the remuneration policy will have to be made public on the company’s website for at least ten years. Related party transactions German stock corporation law already provides for various safeguard mechanisms to protect minority shareholders in cases of transactions with major shareholders or other related parties (e.g. the capital maintenance rules and the laws relating to groups of companies). In the future, in the case of listed companies, these mechanisms will be supplemented by a detailed set of approval and transparency requirements for transactions between the company and related parties. Material transactions exceeding certain thresholds will require prior supervisory board approval. A rejection by the supervisory board can be overcome by shareholder vote. Furthermore, a listed company must publicly disclose any such material related party transaction, without undue delay over media providing for a Europe-wide distribution. Identification of shareholders and facilitation of the exercise of shareholders’ rights Listed companies will have the right to request information on the identity of their shareholders, including the name and both a postal and electronic address, from depositary banks, thus allowing for a direct communication line, also with respect to bearer shares (“know-your-shareholder”). Furthermore, depositary banks and other intermediaries will be required to pass on important information from the company to the shareholders and vice versa, e.g. with respect to voting in shareholders’ meetings and the exercise of subscription rights. Where there is more than one intermediary in a chain, the intermediaries are required to pass on the respective information within the chain. In addition, companies will be required to confirm the votes cast at the request of the shareholders thus enabling them to be certain that their votes have been effectively cast, including in particular across borders. Transparency requirements for institutional investors, asset managers and proxy advisors German domestic institutional investors and asset managers with Germany as their home member state (as defined in the applicable sector-specific EU law) will be required (i) to disclose their engagement policy, including how they monitor, influence and communicate with the investee companies, exercise shareholders’ rights and manage actual and potential conflicts of interests, and (ii) to report annually on the implementation of their engagement policy and disclose how they have cast their votes in the general meetings of material investee companies. Institutional investors will further have to disclose (iii) consistency between the key elements of their investment strategy with the profile and duration of their liabilities and how they contribute to the medium to long-term performance of their assets, and, (iv) if asset managers are involved, to disclose the main aspects of their arrangement with the asset manager. The new disclosure and reporting requirements, however, only apply on a “comply or explain” basis. Thus, investors and asset managers may choose not to make the above disclosures, provided they give an explanation as to why this is the case. Proxy advisors will have to publicly disclose on an annual basis (i) whether and how they have applied their code of conduct based again on the “comply or explain” principle, and (ii) information on the essential features, methodologies and models they apply, their main information sources, the qualification of their staff, their voting policies for the different markets they operate in, their interaction with the companies and the stakeholders as well as how they manage conflicts of interests. These rules, however, do not apply to proxy advisors operating from a non-EEA state with no establishment in Germany. The present legislative draft is still under discussion and it is to be expected that there will still be some changes with respect to details before the act becomes effective in mid-2019. Due to transitional provisions, the new rules on “say on pay” will have no effect for the majority of listed companies in this year’s meeting season. Whether the new rules will actually promote a long-term engagement of shareholders and have the desired effect on the directors’ remuneration of listed companies will have to be seen. In any event, both listed companies as well as the other addressees of the new transparency rules should make sure that they are prepared for the new reporting and disclosure requirements. Back to Top 1.3       Germany Tightens Rules on Foreign Takeovers Even Further After the German government had imposed stricter rules on foreign direct investment in 2017 (see 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 1.5), it has now even further tightened its rules with respect to takeovers of German companies by foreign investors. The latest amendment of the rules under the German Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung, “AWV“) enacted in 2018 was triggered, among other things, by the German government’s first-ever veto in August 2018 regarding the proposed acquisition of Leifeld Metal Spinning, a German manufacturer of metal forming machines used in the automotive, aerospace and nuclear industries, by Yantai Taihai Corporation, a privately-owned industry group from China, on the grounds of national security. Ultimately, Yantai withdrew its bid shortly after the German government had signaled that it would block the takeover. On December 29, 2018, the latest amendment of the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance came into force. The new rules provide for greater scrutiny of foreign direct investments by lowering the threshold for review of takeovers of German companies by foreign investors from the acquisition of 25% of the voting rights down to 10% in circumstances where the target operates a critical infrastructure or in sensitive security areas (defense and IT security industry). In addition, the amendment also expands the scope of the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance to also apply to certain media companies that contribute to shaping the public opinion by way of broadcasting, teleservices or printed materials and stand out due to their special relevance and broad impact. While the lowering of the review threshold as such will lead to an expansion of the existing reporting requirements, the broader scope is also aimed at preventing German mass media from being manipulated with disinformation by foreign investors or governments. There are no specific guidelines published by the German government as it wants the relevant parties to contact, and enter into a dialog with, the authorities about these matters. While the German government used to be rather liberal when it came to foreign investments in the past, the recent veto in the case of Leifeld as well as the new rules show that in certain circumstances, it will become more cumbersome for dealmakers to get a deal done. Finally, it is likely that the rules on foreign investment control will be tightened even further going forward in light of the contemplated EU legislative framework for screening foreign direct investment on a pan-European level. Back to Top 1.4       US Landmark Decision on MAE Clauses – Consequences for German M&A Deals Fresenius wrote legal history in the US with potential consequences also for German M&A deals in which “material adverse effect” (MAE) clauses are used. In December 2018, for the first time ever, the Supreme Court of Delaware allowed a purchaser to invoke the occurrence of an MAE and to terminate the affected merger agreement. The agreement included an MAE clause, which allocated certain business risks concerning the target (Akorn) for the time period between signing and closing to Akorn. Against the resistance of Akorn, Fresenius terminated the merger agreement based on the alleged MAE, arguing that the target’s EBITDA declined by 86%. The decision includes a very detailed analysis of an MAE clause by the Delaware courts and reaffirms that under Delaware law there is a very high bar to establishing an MAE. Such bar is based both on quantitative and qualitative parameters. The effects of any material adverse event need to be substantial as well as lasting. In most German deals, the parties agree to arbitrate. For this reason, there have been no German court rulings published on MAE clauses so far. Hence, all parties to an M&A deal face uncertainty about how German courts or arbitration tribunals would define “materiality” in the context of an MAE clause. In potential M&A litigation, sellers may use this ruling to support the argument that the bar for the exercise of the MAE right is in fact very high in line with the Delaware standard. It remains to be seen whether German judges will adopt the Delaware decision to interpret MAE clauses in German deals. Purchasers, who seek more certainty, may consider defining materiality in the MAE clause more concretely (e.g., by reference to the estimated impact of the event on the EBITDA of the company or any other financial parameter). Back to Top 1.5       Equivalence of Swiss Notarizations? The question whether the notarization of various German corporate matters may only be validly performed by German notaries or whether some or all of these measures may also be notarized validly by Swiss notaries has long since been the topic of legal debate. Since the last major reform of the German Limited Liability Companies Act (Gesetz betreffend Gesellschaften mit beschränkter Haftung – GmbHG) in 2008 the number of Swiss notarizations of German corporate measures has significantly decreased. A number of the newly introduced changes and provisions seemed to cast doubt on the equivalence and capacity of Swiss notaries to validly perform the duties of a German notary public who are not legally bound by the mandatory, non-negotiable German fee regime on notarial fees. As a consequence and a matter of prudence, German companies mostly stopped using Swiss notaries despite the potential for freely negotiated fee arrangements and the resulting significant costs savings in particular in high value matters. However, since 2008 there has been an increasing number of test cases that reach the higher German courts in which the permissibility of a Swiss notarization is the decisive issue. While the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) still has not had the opportunity to decide this question, in 2018 two such cases were decided by the Kammergericht (Higher District Court) in Berlin. In those cases, the court held that both the incorporation of a German limited liability company in the Swiss Canton of Berne (KG Berlin, 22 W 25/16 – January 24, 2018 = ZIP 2018, 323) and the notarization of a merger between two German GmbHs before a notary in the Swiss Canton of Basle (KG Berlin, 22 W 2/18 – July 26, 2018 = ZIP 2018, 1878) were valid notarizations under German law, because Swiss notaries were deemed to be generally equivalent to the qualifications and professional standards of German-based notaries. The reasons given in these decisions are reminiscent of the case law that existed prior to the 2008 corporate law reform and can be interpreted as indicative of a certain tendency by the courts to look favorably on Swiss notarizations as an alternative to German-based notarizations. Having said that and absent a determinative decision by the BGH, using German-based notaries remains the cautious default approach for German companies to take. This is definitely the case in any context where financing banks are involved (e.g. either where share pledges as loan security are concerned or in an acquisition financing context of GmbH share sales and transfers). On the other hand, in regions where such court precedents exist, the use of Swiss notaries for straightforward intercompany share transfers, mergers or conversions might be considered as an alternative on a case by case basis. Back to Top 1.6       Re-Enactment of the DCGK: Focus on Relevance, Function, Management Board’s Remuneration and Independence of Supervisory Board Members Sixteen years after it has first been enacted, the German Corporate Governance Code (Deutscher Corporate Governance Kodex, DCGK), which contains standards for good and responsible governance for German listed companies, is facing a major makeover. In November 2018, the competent German government commission published a first draft for a radically revised DCGK. While vast parts of the proposed changes are merely editorial and technical in nature, the draft contains a number of new recommendations, in particular with respect to the topics of management remuneration and independence of supervisory board members. With respect to the latter, the draft now provides a catalogue of criteria that shall act as guidance for the supervisory board as to when a shareholder representative shall no longer be regarded as independent. Furthermore, the draft also provides for more detailed specifications aiming for an increased transparency of the supervisory board’s work, including the recommendation to individually disclose the members’ attendance of meetings, and further tightens the recommendations regarding the maximum number of simultaneous mandates for supervisory board members. Moreover, in addition to the previous concept of “comply or explain”, the draft DCGK introduces a new “apply and explain” concept, recommending that listed companies also explain how they apply certain fundamental principles set forth in the DCGK as a new third category in addition to the previous two categories of recommendations and suggestions. The draft DCGK is currently under consultation and the interested public is invited to comment upon the proposed amendments until the end of January 2019. Since some of the proposed amendments provide for a rather fundamentally new approach to the current regime and would introduce additional administrative burdens, it remains to be seen whether all of the proposed amendments will actually come into force. According to the current plan, following a final consultancy of the Government Commission, the revised version of the DCGK shall be submitted for publication in April 2019 and would take effect shortly thereafter. Back to Top 2.         Tax On November 23, 2018, the German Federal Council (Bundesrat) approved the German Tax Reform Act 2018 (Jahressteuergesetz 2018, the “Act”), which had passed the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) on November 8, 2018. Highlights of the Act are (i) the exemption of restructuring gains from German income tax, (ii) the partial abolition of and a restructuring exemption from the loss forfeiture rules in share transactions and (iii) the extension of the scope of taxation for non-German real estate investors investing in Germany. 2.1       Exemption of Restructuring Gains The Act puts an end to a long period of uncertainty – which has significantly impaired restructuring efforts – with respect to the tax implications resulting from debt waivers in restructuring scenarios (please see in this regard our 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 3.2). Under German tax law, the waiver of worthless creditor claims creates a balance sheet profit for the debtor in the amount of the nominal value of the payable. Such balance sheet profit is taxable and would – without any tax privileges for such profit – often outweigh the restructuring effect of the waiver. The Act now reinstates the tax exemption of debt waivers with retroactive effect for debt waivers after February 8, 2017; upon application debt waivers prior to February 8, 2017 can also be covered. Prior to this legislative change, a tax exemption of restructuring gains was based on a restructuring decree of the Federal Ministry of Finance, which has been applied by the tax authorities since 2003. In 2016, the German Federal Fiscal Court (Bundesfinanzgerichtshof) held that the restructuring decree by the Federal Ministry of Finance violates constitutional law since a tax exemption must be legislated by statute and cannot be based on an administrative decree. Legislation was then on hold pending confirmation from the EU Commission that a legislative tax exemption does not constitute illegal state aid under EU law. The EU Commission finally gave such confirmation by way of a comfort letter in August 2018. The Act is largely based on the conditions imposed by a restructuring decree issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance on the tax exemption of a restructuring gain. Under the Act, gains at the level of the debtor resulting from a full or partial debt relief are exempt from German income tax if the relief is granted to recapitalize and restructure an ailing business. The tax exemption only applies if at the time of the debt waiver (i) the business is in need of restructuring and (ii) capable of being restructured, (iii) the waiver results in a going-concern of the restructured business and (iv) the creditor waives the debt with the intention to restructure the business. The rules apply to German corporate income and trade tax and benefit individuals, partnerships and corporations alike. Any gains from the relief must first be reduced by all existing loss-offsetting potentials before the taxpayer can benefit from tax exemptions on restructuring measures. Back to Top 2.2       Partial Abolition of Loss Forfeiture Rules/Restructuring Exception Under the current Loss Forfeiture Rules, losses of a German corporation will be forfeited on a pro rata basis if within a period of five years more than 25% but not more than 50% of the shares in the German loss-making corporation are transferred (directly or indirectly) to a new shareholder or group of shareholders with aligned interests. If more than 50% are transferred, losses will be forfeited in total. There are exceptions to this rule for certain intragroup restructurings, built-in gains and business continuations, especially in the venture capital industry. On March 29, 2017, the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) ruled that the pro rata forfeiture of losses (a share transfer of more than 25% but not more than 50%) is incompatible with the constitution. The court has asked the German legislator to amend the Loss Forfeiture Rules retroactively for the period from January 1, 2008 until December 31, 2015 to bring them in line with the constitution. Somewhat surprisingly, the legislator has now decided to fully cancel the pro rata forfeiture of losses with retroactive effect and with no reference to a specific tax period. Currently pending before the German Federal Constitutional Court is the question whether the full forfeiture of losses is constitutional. A decision by the Federal Constitutional Court is expected for early 2019, which may then result in another legislative amendment of the Loss Forfeiture Rules. The Act has also reinstated a restructuring exception from the forfeiture rules – if the share transfer occurs in order to restructure the business of an ailing corporation. Similar to the exemption of restructuring gains, this legislation was on hold until the ECJ’s decision (European Court of Justice) on June 28, 2018 that the restructuring exception does not violate EU law. Existing losses will not cease to exist following a share transfer if the restructuring measures are appropriate to avoid or eliminate the illiquidity or the over-indebtedness of the corporation and to maintain its basic operational structure. The restructuring exception applies to share transfers after December 31, 2007. Back to Top 2.3       Investments in German Real Estate by Non-German Investors So far, capital gains from the disposal of shares in a non-German corporation holding German real estate were not subject to German tax. In a typical structure, in which German real estate is held via a Luxembourg or Dutch entity, a value appreciation in the asset could be realized by a share deal of the holding company without triggering German income taxes. Under the Act, the sale of shares in a non-German corporation is now taxable if, at some point within a period of one year prior to the sale of shares, 50 percent of the book value of the assets of the company consisted of German real estate and the seller held at least 1 percent of the shares within the last five years prior to the sale. The Act is now in line with many double tax treaties concluded by Germany, which allow Germany to tax capital gains in these cases. The new law applies for share transfers after December 31, 2018. Capital gains are only subject to German tax to the extent the value has been increased after December 31, 2018. Until 2018, a change in the value of assets and liabilities, which are economically connected to German real estate, was not subject to German tax. Therefore, for example, profits from a waiver of debt that was used to finance German real estate was not taxable in Germany whereas the interest paid on the debt was deductible for German tax purposes. That law has now changed and allows Germany to tax such profit from a debt waiver if the loan was used to finance German real estate. However, only the change in value that occurred after December 31, 2018 is taxable. Back to Top 3.         Financing and Restructuring – Test for Liquidity Status Tightened On December 19, 2017, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) handed down an important ruling which clarifies the debt and payable items that should be taken into account when determining the “liquidity” status of companies. According to the Court, the liquidity test now requires managing directors and (executive) board members to determine whether a liquidity gap exceeding 10% can be overcome by incoming liquidity within a period of three weeks taking into account all payables which will become due in those three weeks. Prior to the ruling, managing directors had often argued successfully that only those payables that were due at the time when the test is applied needed be taken into account while expected incoming payments within a three week term could be considered. This mismatch in favor of the managing directors has now been rectified by the Court to the disadvantage of the managing directors. If, for example, on June 1 the company liquidity status shows due payables amounting to EUR 100 and plausible incoming receivables in the three weeks thereafter amounting to EUR 101, no illiquidity existed under the old test. Under the new test confirmed by the Court, payables of EUR 50 becoming due in the three week period now also have to be taken into account and the company would be considered illiquid. For companies and their managing directors following a cautious approach, the implications of this ruling are minor. Going forward, however, even those willing to take higher risks will need to follow the court determined principles. Otherwise, delayed insolvency filings could ensue. This not only involves a managing directors and executive board members’ personal liability for payments made on behalf of the company while illiquid but also potential criminal liability for a delayed insolvency filing. Managing directors are thus well advised to properly undertake and also document the required test in order to avoid liability issues. Back to Top 4.         Labor and Employment 4.1       GDPR Has Tightened Workplace Privacy Rules The EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) started to apply on May 25, 2018. It has introduced a number of stricter rules for EU countries with regard to data protection which also apply to employee personal data and employment relationships. In addition to higher sanctions, the regulation provides for extensive information, notification, deletion, and documentation obligations. While many of these data privacy rules had already been part of the previous German workplace privacy regime under the German Federal Data Protection Act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz – BDSG), the latter has also been amended and provides for specific rules applicable to employee data protection in Germany (e.g. in the context of internal investigations or with respect to employee co-determination). However, the most salient novelty is the enormous increase in potential sanctions under the GDPR. Fines for GDPR violations can reach up to the higher of EUR 20 million or 4% of the group’s worldwide turnover. Against this backdrop, employers are well-advised to handle employee personnel data particularly careful. This is also particularly noteworthy as the employer is under an obligation to prove compliance with the GDPR – which may result in a reversal of the burden of proof e.g. in employment-related litigation matters involving alleged GDPR violations. Back to Top 4.2       Job Adverts with Third Gender Following a landmark decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court in 2017, employers are gradually inserting a third gender into their job advertisements. The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) decided on October 10, 2017 that citizens who do not identify as either male or female were to be registered as “diverse” in the birth register (1 BvR 2019/16). As a consequence of this court decision, many employers in Germany have broadened gender notations in job advertisements from previously “m/f” to “m/f/d”. While there is no compelling legal obligation to do so, employers tend to signal their open-mindedness by this step, but also mitigate the potential risk of liability for a discrimination claim. Currently, such liability risk does not appear alarming due to the relative rarity of persons identifying as neither male nor female and the lack of a statutory stipulation for such adverts. However, employers might be well-advised to follow this trend, particularly after Parliament confirmed the existence of a third gender option in birth registers in mid-December. Back to Top 4.3       Can Disclosure Obligation Reduce Gender Pay-Gap? In an attempt to weed out gender pay gaps, the German lawmaker has introduced the so-called Compensation Transparency Act in 2017. It obliges employers, inter alia, to disclose the median compensation of comparable colleagues of the opposite gender with comparable jobs within the company. The purpose is to give a potential claimant (usually a female employee) an impression of how much her comparable male colleagues earn in order for her to consider further steps, e.g. a claim for more money. However, the new law is widely perceived as pointless. First, the law itself and its processes are unduly complex. Second, even after making use of the law, the respective employee would still have to sue the company separately in order to achieve an increase in her compensation, bearing the burden of proof that the opposite-gender employee with higher compensation is comparable to her. Against this background, the law has hardly been used in practice and will likely have only minimal impact. Back to Top 4.4       Employers to Contribute 15% to Deferred Compensation Schemes In order to promote company pension schemes, employers are now obliged to financially support deferred compensation arrangements. So far, employer contributions to any company pension scheme had been voluntary. In the case of deferred compensation schemes, companies save money as a result of less social security charges. The flipside of this saving was a financial detriment to the employee’s statutory pension, as the latter depends on the salary actually paid to the employee (which is reduced as a result of the deferred compensation). To compensate the employee for this gap, the employer is now obliged to contribute up to 15% of the respective deferred compensation. The actual impact of this new rule should be limited, as many employers already actively support deferred compensation schemes. As such, the new obligatory contribution can be set off against existing employer contributions to the same pension scheme. Back to Top 5.         Real Estate – Notarization Requirement for Amendments to Real Estate Purchase Agreements Purchase agreements concerning German real estate require notarization in order to be effective. This notarization requirement relates not only to the purchase agreement as such but to all closely related (side) agreements. The transfer of title to the purchaser additionally requires an agreement in rem between the seller and the purchaser on the transfer (conveyance) and the subsequent registration of the transfer in the land register. To avoid additional notarial fees, parties usually include the conveyance in the notarial real estate purchase agreement. Amendment agreements to real estate purchase agreements are quite common (e.g., the parties subsequently agree on a purchase price adjustment or the purchaser has special requests in a real estate development scenario). Various Higher District Courts (Oberlandesgerichte), together with the prevailing opinion in literature, have held in the past that any amendments to real estate purchase agreements also require notarization unless such an amendment is designed to remove unforeseeable difficulties with the implementation of the agreement without significantly changing the parties’ mutual obligations. Any amendment agreement that does not meet the notarization requirement may render the entire purchase agreement (and not only the amendment agreement) null and void. With its decision on September 14, 2018, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) added another exception to the notarization requirement and ruled that notarization of an amendment agreement is not required once the conveyance has become binding and the amendment does not change the existing real estate transfer obligations or create new ones. A conveyance becomes binding once it has been validly notarized. Before this new decision of the BGH, amendments to real estate purchase agreements were often notarized for the sake of precaution because it was difficult to determine whether the conditions for an exemption from the notarization requirement had been met. This new decision of the BGH gives the parties clear guidance as to when amendments to real estate purchase agreements require notarization. It should, however, be borne in mind that notarization is still required if the amendment provides for new transfer obligations concerning the real property or the conveyance has not become effective yet (e.g., because third party approval is still outstanding). Back to Top 6.         Compliance 6.1       Government Plans to Introduce Corporate Criminal Liability and Internal Investigations Act Plans of the Federal Government to introduce a new statute concerning corporate criminal liability and internal investigations are taking shape. Although a draft bill had already been announced for the end of 2018, pressure to respond to recent corporate scandals seems to be rising. With regard to the role and protection of work product generated during internal investigations, the highly disputed decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) in June 2018 (BVerfG, 2 BvR 1405/17, 2 BvR 1780/17 – June 27, 2018) (see 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 7.3) call for clearer statutory rules concerning the search of law firm premises and the seizure of documents collected in the course of an internal investigation. In its dismissal of complaints brought by Volkswagen and its lawyers from Jones Day, the Federal Constitutional Court made remarkable obiter dicta statements in which it emphasized the following: (1) the legal privilege enjoyed for the communication between the individual defendant (Beschuldigter) and its criminal defense counsel is limited to their communication only; (2) being considered a foreign corporate body, the court denied Jones Day standing in the proceedings, because the German constitution only grants rights to corporate bodies domiciled in Germany; and (3) a search of the offices of a law firm does not affect individual constitutional rights of the lawyers practicing in that office, because the office does not belong to the lawyers’ personal sphere, but only to their law firm. The decision and the additional exposure caused by it by making attorney work product created in the course of an internal investigation accessible was a major blow to German corporations’ efforts to foster internal investigations as a means to efficiently and effectively investigate serious compliance concerns. Because it does not appear likely that an entirely new statute concerning corporate criminal liability will materialize in the near future, the legal press expects the Federal Ministry of Justice to consider an approach in which the statutes dealing with questions around internal investigations and the protection of work product created in the course thereof will be clarified separately. In the meantime, the following measures are recommended to maximize the legal privilege for defense counsel (Verteidigerprivileg): (1) Establish clear instructions to an individual criminal defense lawyer setting forth the scope and purpose of the defense; (2) mark work product and communications that have been created in the course of the defense clearly as confidential correspondence with defense counsel (“Vertrauliche Verteidigerkorrespondenz”); and (3) clearly separate such correspondence from other correspondence with the same client in matters that are not clearly attributable to the criminal defense mandate. While none of these measures will guarantee that state prosecutors and courts will abstain from a search and seizure of such material, at least there are good and valid arguments to defend the legal privilege in any appeals process. However, with the guidance provided to courts by the recent constitutional decision, until new statutory provisions provide for clearer guidance, companies can expect this to become an up-hill battle. Back to Top 6.2       Update on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and Proposed Cross-Border Electronic Evidence Rules Recently the European Union has started tightening its cooperation in the field of criminal procedure, which was previously viewed as a matter of national law under the sovereignty of the 28 EU member states. Two recent developments stand out that illustrate that remarkable new trend: (1) The introduction of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (“EPPO”) that was given jurisdiction to conduct EU-wide investigations for certain matters independent of the prosecution of these matters under the national laws of the member states, and (2) the proposed EU-wide framework for cross-border access to electronically stored data (“e-evidence”) which has recently been introduced to the European Parliament. As reported previously (see 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 7.4), the European Prosecutor’s Office’s task is to independently investigate and prosecute severe crimes against the EU’s financial interests such as fraud against the EU budget or crimes related to EU subsidies. Corporations receiving funds from the EU may therefore be the first to be scrutinized by this new EU body. In 2018 two additional EU member states, the Netherlands and Malta, decided to join this initiative, extending the number of participating member states to 22. The EPPO will presumably begin its work by the end of 2020, because the start date may not be earlier than three years after the regulation’s entry into force. As a further measure to leverage multi-jurisdictional enforcement activities, in April 2018 the European Commission proposed a directive and a regulation that will significantly facilitate expedited cross-border access to e-evidence such as texts, emails or messaging apps by enforcement agencies and judicial authorities. The proposed framework would allow national enforcement authorities in accordance with their domestic procedure to request e-evidence directly from a service provider located in the jurisdiction of another EU member state. That other state’s authorities would not have the right to object to or to review the decision to search and seize the e-evidence sought by the national enforcement authority of the requesting EU member state. Companies refusing delivery risk a fine of up to 2% of their worldwide annual turnover. In addition, providers from a third country which operate in the EU are obliged to appoint a legal representative in the EU. The proposal has reached a majority vote in the Council of the EU and will now be negotiated in the European Parliament. Further controversial discussions between the European Parliament and the Commission took place on December 10, 2018. The Council of the EU aims at reaching an agreement between the three institutions by the end of term of the European Parliament in May 2019. Back to Top 7.         Antitrust and Merger Control 7.1       Antitrust and Merger Control Overview 2018 In 2018, Germany celebrated the 60th anniversary of both the German Act against Restraints of Competition (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen -GWB) as well as the German federal cartel office (Bundeskartellamt) which were both established in 1958 and have since played a leading role in competition enforcement worldwide. The celebrations notwithstanding, the German antitrust watchdog has had a very active year in substantially all of its areas of competence. On the enforcement side, the Bundeskartellamt concluded a number of important cartel investigations. According to its annual review, the Bundeskartellamt carried out dawn raids at 51 companies and imposed fines totaling EUR 376 million against 22 companies or associations and 20 individuals from various industries including the steel, potato manufacturing, newspapers and rolled asphalt industries. Leniency applications remained an important source for the Bundeskartellamt‘s antitrust enforcement activities with a total of 21 leniency applications received in 2018 filling the pipeline for the next few months and years. On the merger control side, the Bundeskartellamt reviewed approximately 1,300 merger cases in 2018 – only 1% of which (i.e. 13 merger filings) required an in-depth phase 2 review. No mergers were prohibited but in one case only conditional clearance was granted and three filings were withdrawn in phase 2. In addition, the Bundeskartellamt had its first full year of additional responsibilities in the area of consumer protection, concluded a sector inquiry into internet comparison portals, and started a sector inquiry into the online marketing business as well as a joint project with the French competition authority CNIL regarding algorithms in the digital economy and their competitive effects. Back to Top 7.2       Cartel Damages Over the past few years, antitrust damages law has advanced in Germany and the European Union. One major legislative development was the EU Directive on actions for damages for infringements of competition law, which was implemented in Germany as part of the 9th amendment to the German Act against Restraints of Competition (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen -GWB). In addition, there has also been some noteworthy case law concerning antitrust damages. To begin with, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) strengthened the position of plaintiffs suing for antitrust damages in its decision Grauzementkartell II in 2018. The decision brought to an end an ongoing dispute between several Higher District Courts and District Courts, which had disagreed over whether a recently added provision of the GWB that suspends the statute of limitations in cases where antitrust authorities initiate investigations would also apply to claims that arose before the amendment entered into force (July 1, 2015). The Federal Supreme Court affirmed the suspension of the statute of limitations, basing its ruling on a well-established principle of German law regarding the intertemporal application of statutes of limitation. The decision concerns numerous antitrust damage suits, including several pending cases concerning trucks, rails tracks, and sugar cartels. Furthermore, recent case law shows that European domestic courts interpret arbitration agreements very broadly and also enforce them in cases involving antitrust damages. In 2017, the England and Wales High Court and the District Court Dortmund (Landgericht Dortmund) were presented with two antitrust disputes where the parties had agreed on an arbitration clause. Both courts denied jurisdiction because the antitrust damage claims were also covered by the arbitration agreements. They argued that the parties could have asserted claims for contractual damages instead, which would have been covered by the arbitration agreement. In the courts’ view, it would be unreasonable, however, if the choice between asserting a contractual or an antitrust claim would give the parties the opportunity to influence the jurisdiction of a court. As a consequence, the use of arbitration clauses (in particular if inconsistently used by suppliers or purchasers) may add significant complexity to antitrust damages litigation going forward. Thus, companies are well advised to examine their international supply agreements to determine whether included arbitration agreements will also apply to disputes about antitrust damages. Back to Top 7.3       Appeals against Fines Risky? In German antitrust proceedings, there is increasing pressure for enterprises to settle. Earlier this year, Radeberger, a producer of lager beer, withdrew its appeal against a significant fine of EUR 338 million, which the Bundeskartellamt had imposed on the company for its alleged participation in the so-called “beer cartel”. With this dramatic step, Radeberger paid heed to a worrisome development in German competition law. Repeatedly, enterprises have seen their cartel fines increased by staggering amounts on appeal (despite such appeals sometimes succeeding on some substantive legal issues). The reason for these “appeals for the worse” – as seen in the liquefied gas cartel (increase of fine from EUR 180 million to EUR 244 million), the sweets cartel (average increase of approx. 50%) and the wallpaper cartel (average increase of approx. 35%) – is the different approach taken by the Bundeskartellamt and the courts to calculating fines. As courts are not bound by the administrative practice of the Bundeskartellamt, many practitioners are calling for the legislator to step in and address the issue. Back to Top 7.4       Luxury Products on Amazon – The Coty Case In July 2018, the Frankfurt Higher District Court (Oberlandesgericht Frankfurt) delivered its judgement in the case Coty / Parfümerie Akzente, ruling that Coty, a luxury perfume producer, did not violate competition rules by imposing an obligation on its selected distributors to not sell on third-party platforms such as Amazon. The judgment followed an earlier decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) of December 2017, by which the ECJ had replied to the Frankfurt court’s referral. The ECJ had held that a vertical distribution agreement (such as the one in place between Coty and its distributor Parfümerie Akzente) did not as such violate Art. 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as long as the so-called Metro criteria were fulfilled. These criteria stipulate that distributors must be chosen on the basis of objective and qualitative criteria that are applied in a non-discriminatory fashion; that the characteristics of the product necessitate the use of a selective distribution network in order to preserve their quality; and, finally, that the criteria laid down do not go beyond what is necessary. Regarding the platform ban in question, the ECJ held that it was not disproportionate. Based on the ECJ’s interpretation of the law, the Frankfurt Higher District Court confirmed that the character of certain products may indeed necessitate a selective distribution system in order to preserve their prestigious reputation, which allowed consumers to distinguish them from similar goods, and that gaps in a selective distribution system (e.g. when products are sold by non-selected distributors) did not per se make the distribution system discriminatory. The Higher District Court also concluded that the platform ban in question was proportional. However, interestingly, it did not do so based on its own reasoning but based on the fact that the ECJ’s detailed analysis did not leave any scope for its own interpretation and, hence, precluded the Higher District Court from applying its own reasoning. Pointing to the European Commission’s E-Commerce Sector Inquiry, according to which sales platforms play a more important role in Germany than in other EU Member States, the Higher District Court, in fact, voiced doubts whether Coty’s sales ban could not have been imposed in a less interfering manner. Back to Top 8.         Litigation 8.1       The New German “Class Action” On November 1, 2018, a long anticipated amendment to the German Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung, ZPO) entered into force, introducing a new procedural remedy for consumers to enforce their rights in German courts: a collective action for declaratory relief. Although sometimes referred to as the new German “class action,” this new German action reveals distinct differences to the U.S.-American remedy. Foremost, the right to bring the collective action is limited to consumer protection organizations or other “qualified institutions” (qualifizierte Einrichtung) who can only represent “consumers” within the meaning of the German Code of Civil Procedure. In addition, affected consumers are not automatically included in the action as part of a class but must actively opt-in by registering their claims in a “claim index” (Klageregister). Furthermore, the collective action for declaratory relief does not grant any monetary relief to the plaintiffs which means that each consumer still has to enforce its claim in an individual suit to receive compensation from the defendant. Despite these differences, the essential and comparable element of the new legal remedy is its binding effect. Any other court which has to decide an individual dispute between the defendant and a registered consumer that is based on the same facts as the collective action is bound by the declaratory decision of the initial court. At the same time, any settlement reached by the parties has a binding effect on all registered consumers who did not decide to specifically opt-out. As a result, companies must be aware of the increased litigation risks arising from the introduction of the new collective action for declaratory relief. Even though its reach is not as extensive as the American class action, consumer protection organizations have already filed two proceedings against companies from the automotive and financial industry since the amendment has entered into force in November 2018, and will most likely continue to make comprehensive use of the new remedy in the future. Back to Top 8.2       The New 2018 DIS Arbitration Rules On March 1, 2018, the new 2018 DIS Arbitration Rules of the German Arbitration Institute (DIS) entered into force. The update aims to make Germany more attractive as a place for arbitration by adjusting the rules to international standards, promoting efficiency and thereby ensuring higher quality for arbitration proceedings. The majority of the updated provisions and rules are designed to accelerate the proceedings and thereby make arbitration more attractive and cost-effective for the parties. There are several new rules on time limitations and measures to enhance procedural efficiency, i.e. the possibility of expedited proceedings or the introduction of case management conferences. Furthermore, the rules now also allow for consolidation of several arbitrations and cover multi-party and multi-contract arbitration. Another major change is the introduction of the DIS Arbitration Council which, similar to the Arbitration Council of the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), may decide upon challenges of an arbitrator and review arbitral awards for formal defects. This amendment shows that the influence of DIS on their arbitration proceedings has grown significantly. All in all, the modernized 2018 DIS Arbitration Rules resolve the deficiencies of their predecessor and strengthen the position of the German Institution of Arbitration among competing arbitration institutions. Back to Top 9.         IP & Technology – Draft Bill of German Trade Secret Act The EU Trade Secrets Directive (2016/943/EU) on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure has already been in effect since July 5, 2016. Even though it was supposed to be implemented into national law by June 9, 2018 to harmonize the protection of trade secrets in the EU, the German legislator has so far only prepared and published a draft of the proposed German Trade Secret Act. Arguably, the most important change in the draft bill to the existing rules on trade secrets in Germany will be a new and EU-wide definition of trade secrets. This proposed definition requires the holder of a trade secret to take reasonable measures to keep a trade secret confidential in order to benefit from its protection – e.g. by implementing technical, contractual and organizational measures that ensure secrecy. This requirement goes beyond the current standard pursuant to which a manifest interest in keeping an information secret may be sufficient. Furthermore, the draft bill provides for additional protection of trade secrets in litigation matters. Last but not least, the draft bill also provides for increased protection of whistleblowers by reducing the barriers for the disclosure of trade secrets in the public interest and to the media. As a consequence, companies would be advised to review their internal procedures and policies regarding the protection of trade secrets at this stage, and may want to adapt their existing whistleblowing and compliance-management-systems as appropriate. Back to Top 10.       International Trade, Sanctions and Export Controls – The Conflict between Complying with the Re-Imposed U.S. Iran Sanctions and the EU Blocking Statute On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and re-impose U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. Under the JCPOA, General License H had permitted U.S.-owned or -controlled non-U.S. entities to engage in business with Iran. But with the end of the wind-down periods provided for in President Trump’s decision on November 5, 2018, such non-U.S. entities are now no longer broadly permitted to provide goods, services, or financing to Iranian counterparties, not even under agreements executed before the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. In response to the May 8, 2018 decision, the EU amended the EU Blocking Statute on August 6, 2018. The effect of the amended EU Blocking Statute is to prohibit compliance by so-called EU operators with the re-imposed U.S. sanctions on Iran. Comparable and more generally drafted anti-blocking statutes had already existed in the EU and several of its member states which prohibited EU domiciled companies to commit to compliance with foreign boycott regulations. These competing obligations under EU and U.S. laws are a concern for U.S. companies that own or seek to acquire German companies that have a history of engagement with Iran – as well as for the German company itself and its management and the employees. But what does the EU prohibition against compliance with the re-imposed U.S. sanctions on Iran mean in practice? Most importantly, it must be noted that the EU Blocking Statute does not oblige EU operators to start or continue Iran related business. If, for example, an EU operator voluntarily decides, e.g. due to lack of profitability, to cease business operations in Iran and not to demonstrate compliance with the U.S. sanctions, the EU Blocking Statute does not apply. Obviously, such voluntary decision must be properly documented. Procedural aspects also remain challenging for companies: In the event a Germany subsidiary of a U.S. company were to decide to start or continue business with Iran, it would usually be required to reach out to the U.S. authorities to request a specific license for a particular transaction with Iran. Before doing so, however, EU operators must first contact the EU Commission directly (not the EU member state authorities) to request authorization to apply for such a U.S. special license. Likewise, if a Germany subsidiary were to decide not to start or to cease business with Iran for the sole reason of being compliant with the re-imposed U.S. Iran sanctions, it would have to apply for an exception from the EU Blocking Statute and would have to provide sufficient evidence that non-compliance would cause serious damage to at least one protected interest. The hurdles for an exception are high and difficult to predict. The EU Commission will e.g. consider, “(…) whether the applicant would face significant economic losses, which could for example threaten its viability or pose a serious risk of bankruptcy, or the security of supply of strategic goods or services within or to the Union or a Member State and the impact of any shortage or disruption therein.” As such, any company caught up in this conflict of interests between the re-imposed U.S. sanctions and the EU Blocking Statute should be aware of a heightened risk of litigation. Third parties, such as Iranian counterparties, might successfully sue for breach of contract with the support of the EU Blocking Regulation in cases of non-performance of contracts as a result of the re-imposed U.S. nuclear sanctions. Finally, EU operators are required to inform the EU Commission within 30 days from the date on which information is obtained that the economic and/or financial interests of the EU operator are affected, directly or indirectly, by the re-imposed U.S. Iran sanctions. If the EU operator is a legal person, this obligation is incumbent on its directors, managers and other persons with management responsibilities of such legal person. Back to Top The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update:  Birgit Friedl, Marcus Geiss, Silke Beiter, Lutz Englisch, Daniel Gebauer, Kai Gesing, Maximilian Hoffmann, Philipp Mangini-Guidano, Jens-Olrik Murach, Markus Nauheim, Dirk Oberbracht, Richard Roeder, Martin Schmid, Annekatrin Schmoll, Jan Schubert, Benno Schwarz, Balthasar Strunz, Michael Walther, Finn Zeidler, Mark Zimmer, Stefanie Zirkel and Caroline Ziser Smith. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the issues discussed in this update. The two German offices of Gibson Dunn in Munich and Frankfurt bring together lawyers with extensive knowledge of corporate, tax, labor, real estate, antitrust, intellectual property law and extensive compliance / white collar crime experience. The German offices are comprised of seasoned lawyers with a breadth of experience who have assisted clients in various industries and in jurisdictions around the world. Our German lawyers work closely with the firm’s practice groups in other jurisdictions to provide cutting-edge legal advice and guidance in the most complex transactions and legal matters. For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you work or any of the following members of the German offices: General Corporate, Corporate Transactions and Capital Markets Lutz Englisch (+49 89 189 33 150), lenglisch@gibsondunn.com) Markus Nauheim (+49 89 189 33 122, mnauheim@gibsondunn.com) Ferdinand Fromholzer (+49 89 189 33 121, ffromholzer@gibsondunn.com) Dirk Oberbracht (+49 69 247 411 510, doberbracht@gibsondunn.com) Wilhelm Reinhardt (+49 69 247 411 520, wreinhardt@gibsondunn.com) Birgit Friedl (+49 89 189 33 180, bfriedl@gibsondunn.com) Silke Beiter (+49 89 189 33 121, sbeiter@gibsondunn.com) Marcus Geiss (+49 89 189 33 122, mgeiss@gibsondunn.com) Annekatrin Pelster (+49 69 247 411 521, apelster@gibsondunn.com Finance, Restructuring and Insolvency Sebastian Schoon (+49 89 189 33 160, sschoon@gibsondunn.com) Birgit Friedl (+49 89 189 33 180, bfriedl@gibsondunn.com) Alexander Klein (+49 69 247 411 518, aklein@gibsondunn.com) Marcus Geiss (+49 89 189 33 122, mgeiss@gibsondunn.com) Tax Hans Martin Schmid (+49 89 189 33 110, mschmid@gibsondunn.com) Labor Law Mark Zimmer (+49 89 189 33 130, mzimmer@gibsondunn.com) Real Estate Peter Decker (+49 89 189 33 115, pdecker@gibsondunn.com) Daniel Gebauer (+49 89 189 33 115, dgebauer@gibsondunn.com) Technology Transactions / Intellectual Property / Data Privacy Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) Corporate Compliance / White Collar Matters Benno Schwarz (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Mark Zimmer (+49 89 189 33 130, mzimmer@gibsondunn.com) Finn Zeidler (+49 69 247 411 530, fzeidler@gibsondunn.com) Antitrust Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Jens-Olrik Murach (+32 2 554 7240, jmurach@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) Litigation Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Mark Zimmer (+49 89 189 33 130, mzimmer@gibsondunn.com) Finn Zeidler (+49 69 247 411 530, fzeidler@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) International Trade, Sanctions and Export Control Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Richard Roeder (+49 89 189 33 218, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 333 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071 Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

December 21, 2018 |
Landmark Judgments by General Court of the European Union Declare State Aid for Two Infrastructure Projects Illegal

Click for PDF In September and December 2018, Gibson Dunn attorneys won three cases before the General Court of the European Union (cases T-630/15, Scandlines Danmark and Scandlines Deutschland v Commission and T-631/15, Stena Line Scandinavia v Commission of 13 December 2018; and Case T-68/15 HH Ferries and others v Commission of 19 September 2018). In the first two of those judgments, handed down on 13 December 2018, Gibson Dunn represented the ferry lines Scandlines and Stena Line Scandinavia. In both cases, the General Court annulled a European Commission decision of 15 July 2015 authorising State aid for a major infrastructure project, the Fehmarn fixed link, worth 7.4 billion EUR consisting of a 12-mile coast-to-coast underwater tunnel between Denmark and Germany for road and rail traffic. With these two landmark judgments, the General Court declared that the financial support granted by Denmark in the form of State guarantees and State loans to the Fehmarn fixed link is illegal, effectively bringing the construction works of that infrastructure project to a halt.  The cases attracted several third-party interveners.  The Danish State  intervened in order to support the European Commission, while the Swedish Shipping Association and NABU (a major German environmental organization) intervened to support Scandlines. These two judgments followed an earlier Gibson Dunn victory before the General Court on 19 September 2018 in which the General Court annulled the European Commission’s decision authorising State aid for another significant infrastructure project, the Øresund fixed link.  In this case, Gibson Dunn represented the competing ferry line HH Ferries.  The Øresund fixed link consists of a 10 mile long bridge and an underwater tunnel between Denmark and Sweden, worth 3 billion EUR (Case T-68/15 HH Ferries and others v Commission).  Both the Danish and Swedish States intervened in the case to support the European Commission. These three judgments are the latest in a list of prominent judgments of EU Courts setting out the compliance requirements for infrastructure projects within the EU. Specifically, the General Court makes clear that State aid to any major infrastructure project must be limited in time and amount. For example, the European Commission argued in the Fehmarn fixed link cases that the State guarantees and loans were limited to a 55-year period after the opening of the fixed link. However, the General Court found that this period did not provide a precise indication of the exact duration and end date of the State guarantees and State loans. In fact, the General Court concluded that this ’55-year’ period was, in itself, extremely long and indeterminate and relates, in any case, only to the availability of the State guarantees and State loans, without fixing a time limit of each State guarantee and State loan. The judgments also clarify that the State aid for such infrastructure projects may not include any ‘operating aid’, that is support for operating costs, such as costs for electricity, water, and labour etc. which are costs that a company would normally have to bear in its day-to-day management or ordinary activities.  In this context the General Court also ruled that loans taken out for refinancing investment costs constitute a form of prohibited operating aid, something that will have a major impact on the financing model underlying both infrastructure projects. Finally, the General Court also held that the European Commission had erred by not requiring the Danish authorities to disclose to the European Commission the conditions for triggering the benefit of the guarantees. In this regard, the European Commission admitted that it did not know the conditions on which the guarantees would be triggered at the time when it approved the State aid. As a result of the judgments, the European Commission may not authorise State aid to support the financial model underlying both the Fehmarn and Øresund fixed links.  In addition, the annulment has the immediate effect of making any further State aid to the projects illegal.  The European Commission is now tasked with determining whether it is feasible to issue a new authorisation of the State aid for these projects whilst complying with the strict limitations laid down by the General Court.  As mentioned above, the effect of this is that the construction of the Fehmarn fixed link project will therefore most likely be ceased at least for the foreseeable future.  The banks financing the Øresund fixed link may also withdraw their loans, thereby rendering the overall commercial operation of the fixed link non sustainable – unless prices for crossing the fixed link are significantly raised, something which the ferry lines would welcome. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Lena Sandberg, Peter Alexiadis, and Yannis Ioannidis. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, any member of the firm’s Antitrust and Competition practice group, or the following lawyers in Brussels: Peter Alexiadis (+32 2 554 7200, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) David Wood (+32 2 554 7210, dwood@gibsondunn.com) Lena Sandberg (+32 2 554 72 60, lsandberg@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the practice group leaders and members: Brussels Peter Alexiadis (+32 2 554 7200, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Jens-Olrik Murach (+32 2 554 7240, jmurach@gibsondunn.com) Lena Sandberg (+32 2 554 72 60, lsandberg@gibsondunn.com) David Wood (+32 2 554 7210, dwood@gibsondunn.com) London Patrick Doris (+44 20 7071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Charles Falconer (+44 20 7071 4270, cfalconer@gibsondunn.com) Ali Nikpay (+44 20 7071 4273, anikpay@gibsondunn.com) Philip Rocher (+44 20 7071 4202, procher@gibsondunn.com) Deirdre Taylor (+44 20 7071 4274, dtaylor2@gibsondunn.com) Munich Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) Hong Kong Kelly Austin (+852 2214 3788, kaustin@gibsondunn.com) Sébastien Evrard (+852 2214 3798, sevrard@gibsondunn.com) Washington, D.C. D. Jarrett Arp (+1 202-955-8678, jarp@gibsondunn.com) Adam Di Vincenzo (+1 202-887-3704, adivincenzo@gibsondunn.com) Scott D. Hammond (+1 202-887-3684, shammond@gibsondunn.com) Joshua Lipton (+1 202-955-8226, jlipton@gibsondunn.com) Richard G. Parker (+1 202-955-8503, rparker@gibsondunn.com) Cynthia Richman (+1 202-955-8234, crichman@gibsondunn.com) New York Eric J. Stock (+1 212-351-2301, estock@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Daniel G. Swanson (+1 213-229-7430, dswanson@gibsondunn.com) Samuel G. Liversidge (+1 213-229-7420, sliversidge@gibsondunn.com) Jay P. Srinivasan (+1 213-229-7296, jsrinivasan@gibsondunn.com) Rod J. Stone (+1 213-229-7256, rstone@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Rachel S. Brass (+1 415-393-8293, rbrass@gibsondunn.com) Trey Nicoud (+1 415-393-8308, tnicoud@gibsondunn.com) Dallas Veronica S. Lewis (+1 214-698-3320, vlewis@gibsondunn.com) Mike Raiff (+1 214-698-3350, mraiff@gibsondunn.com) Brian Robison (+1 214-698-3370, brobison@gibsondunn.com) M. Sean Royall (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Denver Richard H. Cunningham (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

December 20, 2018 |
Rachel Brass and Scott Edelman Named Litigators of the Week

The Am Law Litigation Daily named San Francisco partner Rachel Brass and Century City partner Scott Edelman as “Litigators of the Week” [PDF] for successfully defending Ottogi Company, Ltd. and Ottogi America, Inc. against a $500 million price-fixing class action. After a five-week trial, a jury in the Northern District of California took just three hours to find for the defense across the board. The profile was published on December 20, 2018. Gibson Dunn’s worldwide Antitrust and Competition Practice Group numbers over 150 lawyers located throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.  Our antitrust team includes former high-ranking officials from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office and the European Commission, as well as Fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers.  The practice group is seamlessly integrated with Gibson Dunn’s powerhouse class action and appellate litigation teams to enable the firm to handle any crisis, as well as a matter from inception all the way through the U.S. Supreme Court.

December 20, 2018 |
Gibson Dunn Ranked in the Legal 500 Deutschland 2019

The Legal 500 Deutschland 2019 ranked Gibson Dunn in four practice areas and named Frankfurt partner Dirk Oberbracht as Leading Lawyer in Private Equity. The firm was recognized in the following categories: Antitrust, Compliance, Compliance: Internal Investigations, and Private Equity: Transactions. Oberbracht is a leading Private Equity and M&A lawyer. He advises private equity investors, corporate clients, families and management teams. He has extensive expertise in cross-border and domestic deals, including carve-outs, joint ventures, minority investments, corporate restructurings and management equity programs.

December 13, 2018 |
The European Union’s General Court Rules (yet again!) That Margin Squeezes Are Problematic under EU Competition Rules

Click for PDF In two separate but related appeals, the General Court of the European Union has today confirmed that the practice of margin squeezing by a dominant firm can constitute abusive behaviour, contrary to the terms of Article 102 TFEU.[1]  In parallel, the General Court ruled that the Commission was entitled to apply the doctrine of parental responsibility when also extending its fine beyond the immediate perpetrator – Slovak Telekom – to its ultimate parent company, Deutsche Telekom  (“DT”).  The latter company was not merely liable by reason of its corporate relationship with Slovak Telekom, but because it knowingly allowed the margin squeezing practice to take place despite full knowledge of its obligations in this regard as a result of previous Commission interventions.[2]  However, the General Court annulled those parts of the Commission Decision which erred in its calculation of the exclusionary effects of the practice, and in terms of the degree to which a  parent should be responsible for the culpability of its subsidiary in an Article 102 TFEU context. Both appeals relate to the Commission’s Decision of 15 October 2014 in Case AT. 39523, in which the Commission fined Slovak Telekom and its German parent, DT, for the refusal by the former to grant access to competitors to its fixed broadband network and for engaging in a margin squeeze when access was ultimately granted.  In that Decision, both parties were jointly fined €38.8 million (just over $44 million) while DT was fined on additional  €31 million around (around $35 million), given the fact that DT had been found guilty of similar conduct on the German broadband access market in 2003.[3]  This additional fine was prompted by the Commission’s desire to deter “repeat offending” by DT in conducting margin squeezes. A margin squeeze is a competition law offence which is based on the unfairness of the spread between a dominant firm’s wholesale access prices charged to tis competitors and its retail prices.  It is the narrowness in the spread between wholesale and retail price that threatens to foreclose the operations of equally efficient competitors.  The margin squeeze offence has no equivalent under US antitrust law, which prefers to consider the competition law implications of margin squeezes to be actionable only in one of two extreme scenarios – either a refusal to deal situation or in the case of predatory (i.e., below cost) pricing – but a practice which is not actionable in its own right. 1.      The Appeals In the appeal raised by Slovak Telekom, the General Court was asked to address a number of key aspects of the Commission’s Decision, including:  whether the Commission was correct in taking the view that it was not necessary to demonstrate the essential nature of the infrastructure when considering the legality of the refusal to supply under the Bronner[4] case-law;  the types of factors which the Commission can take into account when determining the extent of Slovak Telekom’s margin and the implications of the methodology chosen in determining the duration of the infringement;  the attribution of parental responsibility on DT; and  the gravity of the fine. In addition, DT argued that the Commission had erred:  by violating the presumption of innocence when attributing the infringement to DT, as Slovak Telekom did not form part of a single economic entity with DT, given that DT had neither exercised decisive influence over Slovak Telekom nor was it aware that Slovak Telekom was engaging in questionable competitive conduct; and  to the extent it had treated DT and Slovak Telekom as a single entity, by imposing an additional fine on DT. 2.      The Judgments The General Court largely upheld the Commission’s Decision regarding the finding that Slovak Telekom and DT had abused a dominant position.  However, due to certain errors in the Commission’s analysis, the Court lowered the fine imposed on Slovak Telekom by a small amount (i.e., from 38, 838, 000 to 38, 061, 963 Euros for joint liability for the infringement), but reduced the additional fine on DT to a significant degree (i.e., from 31,070,000 to 19,030, 981).  The key rulings of the General Court were as follows: In determining the anti-competitive effects of a margin squeeze allegation, the Commission was not under a legal obligation to demonstrate that access to Slovak Telekom’s local loop was “indispensable” in antitrust terms.  Indeed, to the extent that Slovak Telekom was already mandated under regulatory provisions to provide access, the usual antitrust enquiry as to whether or not a dominant firm should only be obliged to deal with competitors where its wholesale access input is indispensable (i.e., tantamount to an “essential facility”) was rendered moot. However, when the Commission estimated the duration period of the infringement, it erred in not taking due account of the fact that, over a period of four months in 2005, a positive margin existed between Slovak Telekom’s wholesale and retail prices.  In these circumstances, the Commission was subject to a specific obligation to demonstrate that the contested margin squeeze actually led to exclusionary effects in the market.  It was the Commission’s failure to investigate whether or not competitive harm had occurred during this period which justified the small reduction in the fine. When determining the extent to which DT might be held responsible for the actions of its Slovak subsidiary, it will only be appropriate for this derivative responsibility to result in a larger fine on the parent than the subsidiary if factors are shown to exist which relate to the activities of the alleged infringing party.  Taking into account repeat offences may indeed be such a material consideration.  By contrast, it will be inappropriate to impose a higher fine on the parent simply because of its larger revenue base, since revenues do not constitute a particular factor that is attributable to market behaviour.  Hence, according to the Court, the facts of this case were such that the decision to impose an additional fine solely on the basis of a large revenue base lacked an objective justification, and was contrary to the understanding that liability should be associated with the particular actions of the relevant undertaking.  In the circumstances, a significant reduction in the fine on DT was appropriate. 3.      Conclusions The Judgments confirm the validity of the margin squeeze offence under EU Competition rules.  In this respect, the Judgment has elements of “Groundhog Day”.  Critically, however, the landmark Judgment of the Court of Justice in TeliaSonera[5] has been applied in a review of the Commission Decision.  In practice, it enforces the Commission’s enforcement hand in prosecuting cases in regulated sectors where the theory of harm is related in some way to the decision of the dominant firm to deny access or to render its terms so unattractive as to implicitly deny access.  Without having to prove that the dominant firm benefited from its operation of an essential facility, the Commission can move forward to the critical issue of potential foreclosure.  One also needs to ask the question whether, even in those industries where the decision of firms to provide access as part of their business model is not mandated by regulation (such as many online platforms), a similar short-cut to a foreclosure analysis is acceptable.  Where the access seeker has developed a relationship of dependence om the access provider, it may be difficult to draw bright lines as to why this behaviour should not be treated on equal footing as with that which is subject to sector- specific regulation. Of some comfort to dominant firms will be the fact that the Court has undertaken to subject to serious scrutiny any Commission allegations that a margin squeeze will be likely to result in the foreclosure of competitors.  By subjecting the Commission’s time-line for the offence to a rigorous analysis, hope for the meaningful endorsement of the “effects-based” theory anti-competitive harm under Article 102 TFEU seems to be fulfilled. Finally, the Court has laid down an important marker for the use of the recidivism doctrine as the basis for increasing administrative fines in the context of Article 102 TFEU actions.  While the Court has insisted that the actual role of the parent will be a highly relevant factor in attributing an additional degree of responsibility for an infringement on a parent company, it has made it clear that repeat offending (even if in another EU Member State) is a highly relevant factor.    [1]   Case T-827/14 Deutsche Telekom v Commission EU:T:2018:930, and Case T-851/14 Slovak Telekom v Commission EU:T:2018:929.    [2]   Refer to Case C-280/08P Deutsche Telekom AV. Commission EU:C:2010:603. See also case C-295/12 Telefonica –Telefonica de España  EU:C:2014:2062.    [3]   Case COMP 7-451 Deutsche Telekom AG.    [4]   See case C-7/97, Bronner [1998] EU:C:1998:569.    [5]   Case C-52/09 Konkurrensverket v TeliaSonera Sverige AB EU:C:2011:83. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Peter Alexiadis, David Wood and Eleni Petropoulaki. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, any member of the firm’s Antitrust and Competition practice group, or the following lawyers in Brussels: Peter Alexiadis (+32 2 554 7200, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) David Wood (+32 2 554 7210, dwood@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the practice group leaders and members: Brussels Peter Alexiadis (+32 2 554 7200, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Jens-Olrik Murach (+32 2 554 7240, jmurach@gibsondunn.com) Lena Sandberg (+32 2 554 72 60, lsandberg@gibsondunn.com) David Wood (+32 2 554 7210, dwood@gibsondunn.com) London Patrick Doris (+44 20 7071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Charles Falconer (+44 20 7071 4270, cfalconer@gibsondunn.com) Ali Nikpay (+44 20 7071 4273, anikpay@gibsondunn.com) Philip Rocher (+44 20 7071 4202, procher@gibsondunn.com) Deirdre Taylor (+44 20 7071 4274, dtaylor2@gibsondunn.com) Munich Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) Hong Kong Kelly Austin (+852 2214 3788, kaustin@gibsondunn.com) Sébastien Evrard (+852 2214 3798, sevrard@gibsondunn.com) Washington, D.C. D. Jarrett Arp (+1 202-955-8678, jarp@gibsondunn.com) Adam Di Vincenzo (+1 202-887-3704, adivincenzo@gibsondunn.com) Scott D. Hammond (+1 202-887-3684, shammond@gibsondunn.com) Joshua Lipton (+1 202-955-8226, jlipton@gibsondunn.com) Richard G. Parker (+1 202-955-8503, rparker@gibsondunn.com) Cynthia Richman (+1 202-955-8234, crichman@gibsondunn.com) New York Eric J. Stock (+1 212-351-2301, estock@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Daniel G. Swanson (+1 213-229-7430, dswanson@gibsondunn.com) Samuel G. Liversidge (+1 213-229-7420, sliversidge@gibsondunn.com) Jay P. Srinivasan (+1 213-229-7296, jsrinivasan@gibsondunn.com) Rod J. Stone (+1 213-229-7256, rstone@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Rachel S. Brass (+1 415-393-8293, rbrass@gibsondunn.com) Trey Nicoud (+1 415-393-8308, tnicoud@gibsondunn.com) Dallas Veronica S. Lewis (+1 214-698-3320, vlewis@gibsondunn.com) Mike Raiff (+1 214-698-3350, mraiff@gibsondunn.com) Brian Robison (+1 214-698-3370, brobison@gibsondunn.com) M. Sean Royall (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Denver Richard H. Cunningham (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

November 29, 2018 |
Gibson Dunn Ranked in 2019 Chambers Asia Pacific

Gibson Dunn earned 12 firm rankings and 21 individual rankings in the 2019 edition of Chambers Asia-Pacific. The firm was recognized in the Asia-Pacific Region-wide category for Investment Funds: Private Equity as well as the following International Firms categories: China Banking & Finance: Leveraged & Acquisition Finance; China Competition/Antitrust; China Corporate Investigations/Anti-Corruption; China Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded; China Investment Funds: Private Equity; China Private Equity: Buyouts & Venture Capital Investment; India Corporate/M&A; Indonesia Corporate & Finance; Philippines Projects, Infrastructure & Energy; Singapore Corporate/M&A; and Singapore Energy & Natural Resources. The following lawyers were ranked individually in their respective categories: Kelly Austin – China Corporate Investigations/Anti-Corruption Albert Cho – China Investment Funds Troy Doyle – Singapore Restructuring/Insolvency Sébastien Evrard – China Competition/Antitrust John Fadely – China Investment Funds Scott Jalowayski – China Private Equity: Buyouts & Venture Capital Investment Michael Nicklin –  China Banking & Finance: Leveraged & Acquisition Finance Jai Pathak – India Corporate/M&A, and Singapore Corporate/M&A Brad Roach – Indonesia Projects & Energy, Singapore Energy & Natural Resources, and Singapore Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas Saptak Santra – Singapore Energy & Natural Resources Brian Schwarzwalder – China Private Equity: Buyouts & Venture Capital Patricia Tan Openshaw – China Projects & Infrastructure, and Philippines Projects, Infrastructure & Energy Jamie Thomas – India Banking & Finance, Indonesia Banking & Finance, and Singapore Banking & Finance Graham Winter – China Corporate/M&A: Hong Kong-based Yi Zhang – China Corporate/M&A: Hong Kong-based The rankings were published on November 29, 2018.

November 21, 2018 |
Three Gibson Dunn partners recognized by Who’s Who Legal

Three Gibson Dunn partners were recognized by Who’s Who Legal Thought Leaders: Global Elite 2019 in their respective practice areas. Brussels partner Peter Alexiadis and Washington, D.C. partner Richard Parker were recognized in Competition, and Washington, D.C.  F. Joseph Warin was recognized in Business Crime Defence – Corporates and in Investigations. The list was published in November 2018.

November 6, 2018 |
Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim and FTC Chairman Joe Simons Testify on Antitrust Enforcement Before Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust

Click for PDF On October 3, 2018, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.  The key themes of their testimony are summarized below. Focus on Technology and “Dominant Online Platforms” Chairman Simons stated that the Commission looks for markets characterized by significant market power.  Dominant online platforms are prime examples.  Chairman Simons described enforcement in this area as a Commission priority.  AAG Delrahim seconded Simons’ views and described internal meetings with Division personnel, up to and including Attorney General Sessions, to discuss how the Division should apply antitrust law in this area. AAG Delrahim stated that he views search engine protocols that favor one company over another as a source of potential collusion and disclosed that there is a pending criminal investigation in this arena.  Chairman Simons stated that such conduct was not necessarily “per se legal,” and noted that the Commission investigated this issue in recent years and closed its investigation without further action. Senator Richard Blumenthal raised data privacy as a concern.  AAG Delrahim testified that he viewed online platforms’ use of personal data as an antitrust issue, both in terms of the platform’s position as a monopoly seller of this information as well as a monopsony buyer.  He also expressed concern that personal information could be used by dominant platforms to stymie entry or growth by a competitor.  Chairman Simons described data privacy as an aspect of product quality, a factor that is a traditional consideration by the Commission in its merger review process. Standard-Essential Patent Licensing Patent licensing emerged as a subject of disagreement between the Division and the Commission.  AAG Delrahim suggested that Division resources should be focused on exercise of monopsony power by patent implementers against patent holders, warning that misapplication of antitrust laws to protect implementers could lead to reduced incentives to innovate.  In contrast, Chairman Simons viewed patent hold-up by implementers as well as patent hold-out—the practice of routinely ignoring patent holders’ rights—as equal sources of concern and adding that the Commission should not “discriminate” against either. Employee “No-Poach” Agreements AAG Delrahim stated that the Division is actively searching for, and investigating suspected agreements between competitors not to solicit or hire each other’s employees, commonly referred to as “no-poach” agreements.  AAG Delrahim disclosed that the Division has deployed software that canvasses documents produced during merger investigations to uncover evidence of potential employee no-poach agreements.  He stated that there were several investigations in this area, some of which are criminal. Reverse Payment/Pay-For-Delay Litigation Chairman Simons testified that the Commission would continue aggressively investigating and challenging “pay for delay”—settlements between brand drug manufacturers and generic drug makers in which the generic drug maker delays the introduction of a competing generic drug in exchange for value.  He also stated that the Commission would also look closely at pay-for-delay deals in the biosimilar sector. Sham Patent Infringement Litigation in the Pharmaceutical Sector Chairman Simons indicated that the Commission would continue to investigate “sham litigation” brought by brand drug makers against potential generic competitors designed to forestall generic entry.  He cited the Commission’s recent win in FTC v. AbbVie as the first example that this conduct violates Section 2 of the Sherman Act. FTC Act Section 5 Enforcement Chairman Simons testified about the Commission’s Section 5 activity.  Section 5 prohibits, in broad terms, “unfair methods of competition.”  The scope of “unfair competition” has never been precisely defined, though Commissioner Rohit Chopra suggested in a public comment on September 6, 2018 that the Commission should consider rulemaking in this area.  Chairman Simons was skeptical of this approach, noting that the Commission’s efforts are largely focused on enforcement of the Clayton and Sherman Acts.  He expressed a preference for courts and adjudicatory proceedings to provide clarity on this issue. Commitment to Faster Merger Reviews AAG Delrahim also indicated that the Division would try to resolve most merger investigations within 30 days and the rest within six months.  He cited the Division’s investigation of the Disney-Fox merger as an example of the six-month deadline being attainable in a complex matter.  He stressed however, that prompt cooperation by the parties was essential to helping the Division meet these goals. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, any member of the firm’s Antitrust and Competition practice group, or the authors: Adam Di Vincenzo – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3704, adivincenzo@gibsondunn.com) Richard G. Parker – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8503, rparker@gibsondunn.com) Cynthia Richman – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8234, crichman@gibsondunn.com) Chris Wilson – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8520, cwilson@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the following practice group leaders and members: Washington, D.C. D. Jarrett Arp (+1 202-955-8678, jarp@gibsondunn.com) Adam Di Vincenzo (+1 202-887-3704, adivincenzo@gibsondunn.com) Scott D. Hammond (+1 202-887-3684, shammond@gibsondunn.com) Joshua Lipton (+1 202-955-8226, jlipton@gibsondunn.com) Richard G. Parker (+1 202-955-8503, rparker@gibsondunn.com) Cynthia Richman (+1 202-955-8234, crichman@gibsondunn.com) New York Eric J. Stock (+1 212-351-2301, estock@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Daniel G. Swanson (+1 213-229-7430, dswanson@gibsondunn.com) Samuel G. Liversidge (+1 213-229-7420, sliversidge@gibsondunn.com) Jay P. Srinivasan (+1 213-229-7296, jsrinivasan@gibsondunn.com) Rod J. Stone (+1 213-229-7256, rstone@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Rachel S. Brass (+1 415-393-8293, rbrass@gibsondunn.com) Trey Nicoud (+1 415-393-8308, tnicoud@gibsondunn.com) Dallas Veronica S. Lewis (+1 214-698-3320, vlewis@gibsondunn.com) Mike Raiff (+1 214-698-3350, mraiff@gibsondunn.com) Brian Robison (+1 214-698-3370, brobison@gibsondunn.com) M. Sean Royall (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Denver Richard H. Cunningham (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) Brussels Peter Alexiadis (+32 2 554 7200, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Jens-Olrik Murach (+32 2 554 7240, jmurach@gibsondunn.com) David Wood (+32 2 554 7210, dwood@gibsondunn.com) London Patrick Doris (+44 20 7071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Charles Falconer (+44 20 7071 4270, cfalconer@gibsondunn.com) Ali Nikpay (+44 20 7071 4273, anikpay@gibsondunn.com) Philip Rocher (+44 20 7071 4202, procher@gibsondunn.com) Deirdre Taylor (+44 20 7071 4274, dtaylor2@gibsondunn.com) Munich Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) Hong Kong Kelly Austin (+852 2214 3788, kaustin@gibsondunn.com) Sébastien Evrard (+852 2214 3798, sevrard@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 8, 2018 |
Richard Cunningham Named Among Law Week Colorado’s 2018 Barrister’s Best

Law Week Colorado named Denver partner Richard Cunningham “Best Antitrust Lawyer” on the 2018 Barrister’s Best list. The list features “the most prominent, highest performing and well established lawyers across dozens of practice areas.” The list was published on October 8, 2018.

November 1, 2018 |
U.S. News – Best Lawyers® Awards Gibson Dunn 132 Top-Tier Rankings

U.S. News – Best Lawyers® awarded Gibson Dunn Tier 1 rankings in 132 practice area categories in its 2019 “Best Law Firms” [PDF] survey. Overall, the firm earned 169 rankings in nine metropolitan areas and nationally. Additionally, Gibson Dunn was recognized as “Law Firm of the Year” for Litigation – Antitrust and Litigation – Securities. Firms are recognized for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers.” The recognition was announced on November 1, 2018.

October 24, 2018 |
Lessons from FTC’s Loss in, and Subsequent Abandonment of, DirecTV Advertising Case

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) is increasingly focusing on the advertising, data privacy/security, and e-commerce processes of prominent companies marketing legitimate, valuable products and services, as compared to the types of fraudsters and shams that have been a central focus of FTC attention in the past. The FTC’s recently concluded action against DirecTV is emblematic of this trend. In FTC v. DirecTV, the FTC alleged that DirecTV’s marketing failed to adequately disclose that (a) the introductory discounted price lasted only twelve months while subscribers were bound to a 24-month commitment; (b) subscribers who cancelled early would be charged a cancellation fee; and (c) subscribers would automatically incur monthly charges if they did not cancel a premium channel package after a free three-month promotional period. On August 16, 2017, after hearing the FTC’s case-in-chief, Judge Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted judgment for DirecTV on the majority of these claims. And earlier this week, the FTC agreed to voluntarily dismiss the remainder of its case with prejudice. Gibson Dunn partners Sean Royall and Rich Cunningham and associates Brett Rosenthal and Emily Riff recently published an article titled Lessons from FTC’s Loss in, and Subsequent Abandonment of, DirecTV Advertising Case in the Washington Legal Foundation’s The Legal Pulse blog. The article describes the case, the FTC’s evidence, and key takeaways for companies crafting advertising and marketing disclosures. Lessons from FTC’s Loss in, and Subsequent Abandonment of, DirecTV Advertising Case © 2018, Washington Legal Foundation, The Legal Pulse, October 23, 2018. Reprinted with permission. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. Please contact the authors of this Client Alert, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or one of the leaders and members of the firm’s Antitrust and Competition or Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection practice groups: Washington, D.C. Scott D. Hammond (+1 202-887-3684, shammond@gibsondunn.com) D. Jarrett Arp (+1 202-955-8678, jarp@gibsondunn.com) Adam Di Vincenzo (+1 202-887-3704, adivincenzo@gibsondunn.com) Howard S. Hogan (+1 202-887-3640, hhogan@gibsondunn.com) Joseph Kattan P.C. (+1 202-955-8239, jkattan@gibsondunn.com) Joshua Lipton (+1 202-955-8226, jlipton@gibsondunn.com) Cynthia Richman (+1 202-955-8234, crichman@gibsondunn.com) New York Alexander H. Southwell (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Eric J. Stock (+1 212-351-2301, estock@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Daniel G. Swanson (+1 213-229-7430, dswanson@gibsondunn.com) Debra Wong Yang (+1 213-229-7472, dwongyang@gibsondunn.com) Samuel G. Liversidge (+1 213-229-7420, sliversidge@gibsondunn.com) Jay P. Srinivasan (+1 213-229-7296, jsrinivasan@gibsondunn.com) Rod J. Stone (+1 213-229-7256, rstone@gibsondunn.com) Eric D. Vandevelde (+1 213-229-7186, evandevelde@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Rachel S. Brass (+1 415-393-8293, rbrass@gibsondunn.com) Dallas M. Sean Royall (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Veronica S. Lewis (+1 214-698-3320, vlewis@gibsondunn.com) Brian Robison (+1 214-698-3370, brobison@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Denver Richard H. Cunningham (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) Ryan T. Bergsieker (+1 303-298-5774, rbergsieker@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 10, 2018 |
Why We Think the UK Is Heading for a “Soft Brexit”

Click for PDF Our discussions with politicians, civil servants, journalists and other commentators lead us to believe that the most likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations is that a deal will be agreed at the “softer” end of the spectrum, that the Conservative Government will survive and that Theresa May will remain as Prime Minister at least until a Brexit deal is agreed (although perhaps not thereafter).  There is certainly a risk of a chaotic or “hard” Brexit.  On the EU side, September’s summit in Salzburg demonstrated the possibility of unexpected outcomes.  And in the UK, the splits in the ruling Conservative Party and the support it relies upon from the DUP (the Northern Irish party that supports the Government) could in theory result in the ousting of Prime Minister May, which would likely lead to an extension of the Brexit deadline of 29 March 2019.  However, for the reasons set out below we believe a hard or chaotic Brexit is now less likely than more likely. Some background to the negotiations can be found here.  It should be noted that any legally binding deal will be limited to the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU (“the Withdrawal Agreement”) and will not cover the future trading relationship.  But there will be a political statement of intent on the future trading relationship (“the Future Framework”) that will then be subject to further detailed negotiation. There is a European Council meeting on 17/18 October although it is not expected that a final agreement will be reached by then.  However, the current expectation is that a special meeting of the European Council will take place in November (probably over a weekend) to finalise both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Framework. Whatever deal Theresa May finally agrees with the EU needs to be approved by the UK Parliament.  A debate and vote will likely take place within two or three weeks of a deal being agreed – so late November or early December.  If Parliament rejects the deal the perceived wisdom is that the ensuing political crisis could only be resolved either by another referendum or a general election. However: the strongest Brexiteers do not want to risk a second referendum in case they lose; the ruling Conservative Party do not want to risk a general election which may result in it losing power and Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister; and Parliament is unlikely to allow the UK to leave without a deal. As a result we believe that Prime Minister May has more flexibility to compromise with the EU than the political noise would suggest and that, however much they dislike the eventual deal, ardent Brexiteers will likely support it in Parliament.  This is because it will mean the UK has formally left the EU and the Brexiteers live to fight another day. The UK’s current proposal (the so-called “Chequers Proposal”) is likely to be diluted further in favour of the EU, but as long as the final deal results in a formal departure of the UK from the EU in March 2019, we believe Parliament is more likely than not to support it, however unsatisfactory it is to the Brexiteers. The key battleground is whether the UK should remain in a Customs Union beyond a long stop date for a transitional period.  The UK Government proposes a free trade agreement in goods but not services, with restrictions on free movement and the ability for the UK to strike its own free trade deals.  This has been rejected by the EU on the grounds that it seeks to separate services from goods which is inconsistent with the single market and breaches one of the fundamental EU principles of free movement of people.  The Chequers Proposal is unlikely to survive in its current form but the EU has acknowledged that it creates the basis for the start of a negotiation. There has also been discussion of a “Canada style” free-trade agreement, which is supported by the ardent Brexiteers but rejected by the UK Government because it would require checks on goods travelling across borders.  This would create a “hard border” in Northern Ireland which breaches the Good Friday Agreement and would not be accepted by any of the major UK political parties or the EU.  The consequential friction at the borders is also unattractive to businesses that operate on a “just in time” basis – particularly the car manufacturers.  The EU has suggested there could instead be regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the EU, but this has been accepted as unworkable because it would create a split within the UK and is unacceptable to the DUP, the Northern Ireland party whose support of the Conservatives in Parliament is critical to their survival.  This is the area of greatest risk but it remains the case that a “no deal” scenario would guarantee a hard border in Ireland. If no deal is reached by 21 January 2019 the Prime Minister is required to make a statement to MPs.  The Government would then have 14 days to decide how to proceed, and the House of Commons would be given the opportunity to vote on these alternate plans.  Although any motion to reject the Government’s proposal would not be legally binding, it would very likely catalyse the opposition and lead to an early general election or a second referendum.  In any of those circumstances, the EU has already signalled that it would be prepared to grant an extension to the Article 50 period. This client alert was prepared by London partners Charlie Geffen and Nicholas Aleksander and of counsel Anne MacPherson. We have a working group in London (led by Nicholas Aleksander, Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) addressing Brexit related issues.  Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Nicholas Aleksander – Tax NAleksander@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4232 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4236 © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 1, 2018 |
DOJ Antitrust Head Signals Move to Shorter, Less Burdensome Merger Review

Click for PDF On September 25, 2018, in a speech at the 2018 Georgetown Law Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division (“DOJ”), announced his intention to significantly reduce the time needed to review proposed mergers and to reduce the burden in responding to a Request for Additional Information and Documentary Material (“Second Request”) regarding proposed transactions.  The proposed changes raise substantial procedural considerations for clients contemplating transactions posing complex antitrust issues that are reviewed by DOJ, although it remains to be seen whether and to what extent the new policies will be implemented. Transactions such as mergers and joint ventures that meet thresholds set out in the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18a, and related regulations (“HSR”) must file with the FTC’s Premerger Notification Office and go through an initial 30-day waiting period to give the FTC and DOJ time to make an initial evaluation of the transaction’s potential effect on competition.  During this waiting period, either agency may issue a Second Request, a subpoena that seeks a substantial volume of documents and data regarding potential markets that may be affected by the proposed transaction.  Following substantial compliance with a Second Request, the reviewing agency has another 30 days to make an enforcement decision, a second waiting period that is sometimes extended by a “timing agreement” with the parties for another 30 to 60 days. Six-month Timeframe for Merger Review.  Delrahim announced that DOJ would aim to resolve most merger investigations within six months of the parties’ HSR filing.  Citing a source claiming that “significant merger reviews” in 2017 took an average of 10.8 months to complete, up 65% from just over 7 months in 2011, Delrahim acknowledged that increasingly lengthy merger investigations were “a problem” and that a change was needed to “modernize” the merger review process.  Delrahim’s stated goal to keep most merger investigations under six months was conditioned on companies’ “expeditious cooperat[ion]” throughout the process in the form of prompt production of relevant documents and data.  Delrahim noted that not every merger could be completed in this time frame, as some will have thorny issues that will take longer than six months to resolve.  Delrahim’s willingness implement a specific “benchmark” with regard to DOJ’s merger review timeline will come as a welcome retreat from the trend of longer and more burdensome merger investigations.  However, it remains to be seen whether a six-month deadline will be implemented in practice, particularly in mergers involving complex global markets, which are often subject to coordinated investigations by the DOJ and other competition authorities around the world, each with different timelines and procedures. Second Request Avoidance.  Delrahim signaled that DOJ would take a harder look at whether merger investigations can be closed without the need for a Second Request.  A Second Request for information can extend the deadline for a merger to close by six months or more, and DOJ staff sometimes requests that parties “pull and refile”—that is, withdraw and resubmit their HSR  filings to provide the agency 30 additional days to resolve potential issues.  Delrahim’s guidance suggests that DOJ staff may use this avenue more frequently going forward if it can avoid the need for a Second Request. Faster Decision-Making.  Delrahim promised faster decision-making once parties have complied with the Second Request, indicating that DOJ “will make a decision in no longer than 60 days—sooner, if possible . . .”  The HSR Act permits filing parties to consummate their merger as early as 30 days after certifying substantial compliance with a Second Request.  In practice, however, DOJ would frequently require that parties enter into “timing agreements” that extend the deadline by 30 to 60 days or more.  This change will also shorten the time needed to complete a merger review and render an enforcement decision, but in practice DOJ may be reluctant to shorten this waiting period where litigation is a possibility. Fewer Custodians and Depositions.  Delrahim issued crisper guidelines regarding the appropriate number of custodians and depositions needed to do a fulsome merger review.  Regarding custodians, Delrahim stated that “as a general matter we will assume that 20 custodians per party will be sufficient unless the Deputy AAG in charge of the investigation explicitly authorizes more.”  Regarding depositions, Delrahim said that “we generally will not seek more than 12 depositions unless the deputy in charge of the investigation authorizes a greater number.”  This is a welcome reduction in the number of custodians, given that a similar reform in 2006 imposed a much higher limit of 30 custodians.  This change may further reduce the expense and time needed to comply with a Second Request.  Delrahim’s proposed limits, however, were conditioned on earlier production of documents and data, less “gamesmanship” on privilege logs, and a longer post-complaint discovery period should the investigation result in litigation.  As a result, it is unclear whether this commitment will result in a lighter compliance burden for merging parties. Stricter Third Party CID Enforcement.  Delrahim sought to reinvigorate fulsome compliance with Civil Investigative Demands, noting that the Division would “not hesitate to bring CID enforcement actions in federal court to ensure timely and complete compliance.”  This suggests third parties in receipt of CIDs may encounter less flexibility on the part of DOJ Staff to modifications that substantially narrow the scope of the CID or extend the deadline to respond.  Nevertheless, the DOJ Staff relies heavily on third party cooperation in merger investigations, and should remain willing to limit the scope of CIDs in cases where doing so will speed up compliance. Withdrawal of 2011 Policy Guide to Merger Remedies.  Delrahim announced the withdrawal of the 2011 Policy Guide to Merger Remedies and restored the effectiveness of the 2004 Policy Guide until new guidance could be issued.  Merger remedies have been an area of particular focus for Delrahim, who in November of 2017 stated a preference for structural remedies—remedies requiring divestiture of business units—over  behavioral ones requiring changes to a company’s conduct.  The reversion to the 2004 Policy Guide seems to codify Delrahim’s preference for structural relief, as the 2011 Guide had signaled greater willingness to accept conduct remedies of the sort seen in the consent decrees entered in the Comcast/NBCU and Ticketmaster/LiveNation mergers, for example. Earlier Front Office Engagement.  Delrahim offered parties the opportunity to meet with Front Office staff earlier in the merger review process, indicating that these personnel would “be open to an initial, introductory meeting.”  This suggests parties will be given a greater opportunity to dialogue with Antitrust Division decision-makers much earlier in the investigative process.  Delrahim’s guidance responds to private sector complaints about the merger review and may portend meaningful changes in the merger investigation process, at least at the DOJ.  This is not the first and is unlikely to be the last attempt to reform the Second Request process or reduce the burden on merging parties.  Prior initiatives have largely failed to achieve their core goal of reducing the time to clearance, although some (such as the 2006 reform) have reduced the cost of compliance. If the announced changes are fully implemented, companies may look forward to meaningfully shorter merger investigations.  Transactions subject to Second Requests should have lower burdens of compliance in the form of fewer depositions and custodians.  Finally, parties can look forward to greater and earlier engagement with Front Office leadership before critical junctures in merger investigations are reached. Delrahim’s announcement contrasts notably with recent pronouncements by the FTC.  Under Chairman Joseph Simons, who took the reins of the agency on May 1, 2018, the agency recently revised its Model Timing Agreement to formalize adding time to merger reviews.  Specifically, the model agreement links parties’ opportunity to present advocacy to FTC senior leadership to agreeing to provide additional time post-compliance—60 to 90 days—for FTC staff to review submitted Second Request materials.  While the revision is generally consistent with current practice, at minimum, it reflects continued use of an elongated merger review period, and therefore suggests that the FTC may be diverging from DOJ with respect to the desire to shorten and streamline the full-phase merger review process. A copy of the Assistant Attorney General’s remarks can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/assistant-attorney-general-makan-delrahim-delivers-remarks-2018-global-antitrust. A copy of the FTC’s Revised Model Timing Agreement can be found at: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/competition-matters/2018/08/timing-everything-model-timing-agreement. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, any member of the firm’s Antitrust and Competition practice group, or the authors: Daniel G. Swanson – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7430, dswanson@gibsondunn.com) Cynthia Richman – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8234, crichman@gibsondunn.com) Adam Di Vincenzo – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3704, adivincenzo@gibsondunn.com) Richard H. Cunningham – Denver, CO (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) Brian K. Ryoo – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3746, bryoo@gibsondunn.com) Chris Wilson – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8520, cwilson@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the following practice group leaders and members: Washington, D.C. D. Jarrett Arp (+1 202-955-8678, jarp@gibsondunn.com) Adam Di Vincenzo (+1 202-887-3704, adivincenzo@gibsondunn.com) Scott D. Hammond (+1 202-887-3684, shammond@gibsondunn.com) Joshua Lipton (+1 202-955-8226, jlipton@gibsondunn.com) Richard G. Parker (+1 202-955-8503, rparker@gibsondunn.com) Cynthia Richman (+1 202-955-8234, crichman@gibsondunn.com) New York Eric J. Stock (+1 212-351-2301, estock@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Daniel G. Swanson (+1 213-229-7430, dswanson@gibsondunn.com) Samuel G. Liversidge (+1 213-229-7420, sliversidge@gibsondunn.com) Jay P. Srinivasan (+1 213-229-7296, jsrinivasan@gibsondunn.com) Rod J. Stone (+1 213-229-7256, rstone@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Rachel S. Brass (+1 415-393-8293, rbrass@gibsondunn.com) Trey Nicoud (+1 415-393-8308, tnicoud@gibsondunn.com) Dallas Veronica S. Lewis (+1 214-698-3320, vlewis@gibsondunn.com) Brian Robison (+1 214-698-3370, brobison@gibsondunn.com) M. Sean Royall (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Denver Richard H. Cunningham (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) Brussels Peter Alexiadis (+32 2 554 7200, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Jens-Olrik Murach (+32 2 554 7240, jmurach@gibsondunn.com) David Wood (+32 2 554 7210, dwood@gibsondunn.com)> London Patrick Doris (+44 20 7071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Charles Falconer (+44 20 7071 4270, cfalconer@gibsondunn.com) Ali Nikpay (+44 20 7071 4273, anikpay@gibsondunn.com) Philip Rocher (+44 20 7071 4202, procher@gibsondunn.com) Deirdre Taylor (+44 20 7071 4274, dtaylor2@gibsondunn.com) Munich Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) Hong Kong Kelly Austin (+852 2214 3788, kaustin@gibsondunn.com) Sébastien Evrard (+852 2214 3798, sevrard@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

September 26, 2018 |
Lexology Navigator – Cartels

​San Francisco partners Rachel Brass and Trey Nicoud and Washington, D.C. partner Cynthia Richman contributed to the USA section of “Lexology Navigator – Cartels,” [PDF] published by Lexology on September 26, 2018.

September 25, 2018 |
Merger Control: ‘Around the World in 80 Days: Management of the Merger Review Process of Global Deals’

Brussels partner Peter Alexiadis and associate Elsa Sependa are the authors of “Merger Control: ‘Around the World in 80 Days: Management of the Merger Review Process of Global Deals’” [PDF] originally published in Business Law International, Vol19 No3, September 2018, and is reproduced by kind permission of the International Bar Association, London, UK. © International Bar Association.  

September 6, 2018 |
Cartels in the utility sectors: An overview of EU and national case law

Brussels partner Peter Alexiadis is the author of “Cartels in the utility sectors: An overview of EU and national case law” [PDF] published in e-Competitions Special Issue Utilities & Cartels, Art. N44484 on September 6, 2018.

July 12, 2018 |
The Politics of Brexit for those Outside the UK

Click for PDF Following the widely reported Cabinet meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence, on Friday 6 June 2018, the UK Government has now published its “White Paper” setting out its negotiating position with the EU.  A copy of the White Paper can be found here. The long-delayed White Paper centres around a free trade area for goods, based on a common rulebook.  The ancillary customs arrangement plan, in which the UK would collects tariffs on behalf of the EU, would then “enable the UK to control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world”.  However, the Government’s previous “mutual recognition plan” for financial services has been abandoned; instead the White Paper proposes a looser partnership under the framework of the EU’s existing equivalence regime. The responses to the White Paper encapsulate the difficulties of this process.  Eurosceptics remain unhappy that the Government’s position is far too close to a “Soft Brexit” and have threatened to rebel against the proposed customs scheme; Remainers are upset that services (which represent 79% of the UK’s GDP) are excluded. The full detail of the 98-page White Paper is less important at this stage than the negotiating dynamics.  Assuming both the UK and the EU want a deal, which is likely to be the case, M&A practitioners will be familiar with the concept that the stronger party, here the EU, will want to push the weaker party, the UK, as close to the edge as possible without tipping them over.  In that sense the UK has, perhaps inadvertently, somewhat strengthened its negotiating position – albeit in a fragile way. The rules of the UK political game In the UK the principle of separation of powers is strong as far as the independence of the judiciary is concerned.  In January 2017 the UK Supreme Court decided that the Prime Minister could not trigger the Brexit process without the authority of an express Act of Parliament. However, unlike the United States and other presidential systems, there is virtually no separation of powers between legislature and executive.  Government ministers are always also members of Parliament (both upper and lower houses).  The government of the day is dependent on maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons – and will normally be drawn from the political party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons.  The Prime Minister will be the person who is the leader of that party. The governing Conservative Party today holds the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, but does not have an overall majority.  The Conservative Government is reliant on a “confidence and supply” agreement with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (“DUP”) to give it a working majority. Maintaining an open land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is crucial to maintaining the Good Friday Agreement – which underpins the Irish peace process.  Maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is of fundamental importance to the unionist parties in Northern Ireland – not least the DUP.  Thus, the management of the flow of goods and people across the Irish land border, and between Northern Ireland and the UK, have become critical issues in the Brexit debate and negotiations.  The White Paper’s proposed free trade area for goods would avoid friction at the border. Parliament will have a vote on the final Brexit deal, but if the Government loses that vote then it will almost certainly fall and a General Election will follow – more on this below. In addition, if the Prime Minister does not continue to have the support of her party, she would cease to be leader and be replaced.  Providing the Conservative Party continued to maintain its effective majority in the House of Commons, there would not necessarily be a general election on a change in prime minister (as happened when Margaret Thatcher was replaced by John Major in 1990) The position of the UK Government The UK Cabinet had four prominent campaigners for Brexit: David Davis (Secretary for Exiting the EU), Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary), Michael Gove (Environment and Agriculture Secretary) and Liam Fox (Secretary for International Trade).  David Davis and Boris Johnson have both resigned in protest after the Chequers meeting but, so far, Michael Gove and Liam Fox have stayed in the Cabinet.  To that extent, at least for the moment, the Brexit camp has been split and although the Leave activists are unhappy, they are now weaker and more divided for the reasons described below. The Prime Minister can face a personal vote of confidence if 48 Conservative MPs demand such a vote.  However, she can only be removed if at least 159 of the 316 Conservative MPs then vote against her.  It is currently unlikely that this will happen (although the balance may well change once Brexit has happened – and in the lead up to a general election).  Although more than 48 Conservative MPs would in principle be willing to call a vote of confidence, it is believed that they would not win the subsequent vote to remove her.  If by chance that did happen, then Conservative MPs would select two of their members, who would be put to a vote of Conservative activists.  It is likely that at least one of them would be a strong Leaver, and would win the activists’ vote. The position in Parliament The current view on the maths is as follows: The Conservatives and DUP have 326 MPs out of a total of 650.  It is thought that somewhere between 60 and 80 Conservative MPs might vote against a “Soft Brexit” as currently proposed – and one has to assume it will become softer as negotiations with the EU continue.  The opposition Labour party is equally split.  The Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are likely to vote against any Brexit deal in order to bring the Government down, irrespective of whether that would lead to the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal.  However it is thought that sufficient opposition MPs would side with the Government in order to vote a “Soft Brexit” through the House of Commons. Once the final position is resolved, whether a “Soft Brexit” or no deal, it is likely that there will be a leadership challenge against Mrs May from within the Conservative Party. The position of the EU So far the EU have been relatively restrained in their public comments, on the basis that they have been waiting to see the detail of the White Paper. The EU has stated on many occasions that the UK cannot “pick and choose” between those parts of the EU Single Market that it likes, and those it does not.  For this reason, the proposals in the White Paper (which do not embrace all of the requirements of the Single Market), are unlikely to be welcomed by the EU.  It is highly likely that the EU will push back on the UK position to some degree, but it is a dangerous game for all sides to risk a “no deal” outcome.  Absent agreement on an extension the UK will leave the EU at 11 pm on 29 March 2019, but any deal will need to be agreed by late autumn 2018 so national parliaments in the EU and UK have time to vote on it. Finally Whatever happens with the EU the further political risk is the possibility that the Conservatives will be punished in any future General Election – allowing the left wing Jeremy Corbyn into power. It is very hard to quantify this risk.  In a recent poll Jeremy Corbyn edged slightly ahead of Theresa May as a preferred Prime Minister, although “Don’t Knows” had a clear majority. This client alert was prepared by London partners Charlie Geffen and Nicholas Aleksander and of counsel Anne MacPherson. We have a working group in London (led by Nicholas Aleksander, Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) addressing Brexit related issues.  Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Nicholas Aleksander – Tax NAleksander@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4232 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4236 © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 333 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071 Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

June 7, 2018 |
Immunity, Sanctions & Settlements 2018 – Spain

Brussels associate Pablo Figueroa is the author of “Immunity, Sanctions & Settlements 2018 – Spain” [PDF] originally published on June 7, 2018 by Global Competition Review Know-How.

July 9, 2018 |
Who’s Who Legal Recognizes 24 Gibson Dunn Attorneys

24 Gibson Dunn attorneys were recognized by Who’s Who Legal in their respective fields. In Who’s Who Legal Competition 2018, 20 attorneys were recognized for their work. The list includes Brussels attorneys Peter Alexiadis, Attila Borsos, Jens-Olrik Murach, Elsa Sependa and David Wood; Dallas partners Sean Royall and Robert Walters; Hong Kong partner Sébastien J Evrard; London partner Ali Nikpay; Los Angeles partner Daniel Swanson; New York partner Eric Stock; San Francisco partners Rachel Brass, Trey Nicoud and Gary Spratling; and Washington, D.C. partners Jarrett Arp, Adam Di Vincenzo, Scott Hammond, Joseph Kattan, Richard Parker and Cynthia Richman. In the 2018 Who’s Who Legal M&A and Governance guide, four partners were recognized: Century City partner Jonathan Layne, New York partner Dennis Friedman and Washington, D.C. partners Howard Adler and John Olson. The guides were published on July 9, 2018 and June 8, 2018.

July 5, 2018 |
Supreme Court Finds Failure to Prove a Sherman Act Section 1 Violation in Credit Card Market

Click for PDF On June 25, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States assuaged the concerns of many that antitrust enforcement would hobble new and creative ways of conducting business, particularly businesses that have relied on technology to bring consumers and sellers together by offering a “platform” that creates a highly convenient way for them to interact and consummate sales. In Ohio v. American Express, the Court held that plaintiffs failed to prove a Sherman Act Section 1 violation in the credit card market because they presented evidence of alleged anticompetitive effects only on the merchant side of the relevant market. Without evidence of the impact of the challenged practices on the cardholder side of the market, the Court concluded that plaintiffs failed to carry their burden to prove anticompetitive effects. The Court’s opinion has several important elements beyond its holding that certain two-sided platform markets must be evaluated as a single relevant market: Significantly, the Supreme Court discussed a framework for analyzing alleged restraints under the rule of reason for the first time.  Both the majority and dissent adopted the parties’ agreed-upon, three-step framework for analyzing restraints under the rule of reason.  Under this framework, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of proving anticompetitive effects, which shifts the burden to the defendant to show a procompetitive justification.  If the defendant meets its burden of proving procompetitive efficiencies, then the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that those efficiencies could have been achieved through less restrictive means.  Notably, the Court did not mention any balancing of anticompetitive effects against procompetitive justifications. The third step in the above rule of reason framework may be the focus of scrutiny as plaintiffs look to find “less restrictive alternatives” to overcome defendants’ evidence of a procompetitive rationale for a challenged practice.  DOJ-FTC Competitor Collaboration Guidelines provide, however, that the agencies “do not search for a theoretically less restrictive alternative that is not realistic given business realities.”  Section 3.36(b). The Court also found that evidence that output of transactions in the relevant market had increased during the relevant period undercut plaintiffs’ reliance solely on evidence of price increases by Amex.  The Court’s reliance on the failure to prove output restriction reinforces the continued vitality of the Court’s prior decision in Brooke Group Ltd. v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 509 U.S. 209 (1993). The Court rejected the argument that market definition could be dispensed with based on evidence of purported actual anticompetitive effects in the form of merchant fee increases by Amex.  The Court in this regard distinguished horizontal restraints, which in some cases may be analyzed without “precisely defin[ing] the relevant market,” and vertical restraints, stating that vertical restraints frequently do not pose any threat to competition absent the defendant possessing market power. Therefore, it is critical to precisely define the relevant market when evaluating vertical restraints. The case arose out of a decades-old practice.  For more than fifty years, American Express Company and American Express Travel Services Company (together, “Amex”) have included “anti-steering” provisions in contracts with merchants who agree to accept American Express cards as a means of payment. These provisions prohibited merchants from trying to persuade customers to use cards other than American Express cards or imposing special conditions on customers using American Express cards. Absent the challenged provisions, merchants had a strong incentive to encourage customers to use other credit cards because other credit card providers charged merchants lower fees than Amex.  Amex uses the money received from its higher merchant fees to fund investments in its customer rewards program, which offers cardholders better rewards than those offered by rival credit card companies. The United States and several States (“plaintiffs”) sued Amex in October 2010, alleging that the anti-steering provisions violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York entered judgment for plaintiffs, finding that the provisions violated Section 1 because they caused merchants to pay higher fees by precluding merchants from encouraging cardholders to use an alternative card with a lower fee at the point of sale. The district court sided with plaintiffs in finding that the credit card market was really two separate markets: a merchant market and a cardholder market. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erroneously considered only the dealings between Amex and merchants.  As a result, it failed to recognize that the credit card market was a single, “two-sided” market, not two separate markets.  Therefore, the impact of the anti-steering provisions on the cardholder side of the market had to be analyzed in order to determine if those provisions had a substantial anticompetitive effect in the relevant market.  The Supreme Court affirmed in a 5-4 decision. The majority, in an opinion authored by Justice Thomas, agreed with the Second Circuit that the credit card market should be considered as a single market because credit card providers compete to provide credit card transactions, but can create and sell those services only if both the cardholder and the merchant simultaneously choose to use the credit card network as a means of payment. The market is “two-sided” in that it involves the simultaneous provision of services to both cardholders and merchants; in any transaction, a credit card network cannot sell its payment services individually to only the cardholder or only the merchant. The majority observed that the credit card market exhibited strong “indirect” network effects because prices to cardholders affected demand by merchants and prices to merchants affected demand by cardholders.  Higher prices to cardholders would tend to decrease the number of cardholders, which would decrease the attractiveness of that card to merchants, which in turn would decrease the attractiveness of the card to cardholders.  Conversely, higher prices to merchants would decrease the number of merchants accepting the card, which would decrease the utility of the card to cardholders, decreasing the number of cardholders. In either case, the provider increasing prices faced the risk of “a feedback loop of declining demand.”  Providers therefore had to strike a balance between the prices charged on one side of the platform and the prices charged on the other side. In the credit card market, different cardholders might attribute different value to broad acceptance of their card by numerous merchants or to generosity of “cash back” or other loyalty or usage rewards. Similarly, merchants might assign different values to the level of fees by a credit card provider versus the card’s ability to present the merchant with a higher proportion of “big spenders.” Significantly for future cases, the majority observed that not every “platform” business bringing together buyers and sellers should be considered to be a single market. The majority focused on the strength of the indirect network effects—that is, the potential for increased prices on one side to reduce demand on the other side, prompting a feedback loop of declining demand.  The majority discussed a newspaper selling advertisements to advertisers as an example of a “platform” that should not be considered a single market. According to the majority, the indirect network effects operated only in one direction. Advertisers might well care if high subscription prices reduced the number of readers. But because readers are largely indifferent to the amount of advertising in a newspaper, a reduction in advertisements caused by higher advertising rates would not lead to a reduced number of readers. The Court emphasized the importance of market definition in analyzing alleged anticompetitive effects caused by vertical restraints. Unlike horizontal restraints among competitors, the majority wrote, “[v]ertical restraints often pose no risk to competition unless the entity imposing them has market power, which cannot be evaluated unless the Court first defines the relevant market.” Thus, the Court disagreed with plaintiffs’ assertion that under FTC v. Indiana Federation of Dentists, 476 U.S. 447 (1986), evidence of actual adverse effects in the form of increased merchant fees was sufficient proof.  The Court distinguished Indiana Federation of Dentists by noting that it involved a horizontal restraint, and therefore the Court concluded it did not need to precisely define the relevant market to evaluate the restraint’s competitive impact. The dissent, authored by Justice Breyer, accused the majority of “abandoning traditional market-definition approaches” by declining to define the relevant market by assessing the substitutability of other products or services for the product or service at issue. As the dissent noted, because consumers’ ability to shift to substitutes constrains the ability of a seller to raise prices, it is necessary to include reasonable substitutes within the relevant market. The dissent argued that the card providers’ services to merchants and services to cardholders were complements, not substitutes, in the sense that, like gasoline and tires for a car, both must be purchased to have value. But this analogy is inapt in at least two respects. First, there is no need for simultaneity in the purchase of gasoline and tires. Few, if any, consumers buy new tires each time they purchase gasoline. Second, the two complementary products are both purchased by the owner or operator of the vehicle. The seller of gasoline and tires does not have to purchase a service from anyone in order to sell the gasoline or tires (unless the buyer wishes to use a credit card, in which case both the buyer and the merchant must simultaneously choose to use the payment services offered by the credit card provider). This is unlike the credit card context where both the cardholder and the merchant must simultaneously choose to use the payment services offered by the credit card provider. The Court’s acceptance that some businesses operate in a single, two-sided market has implications for antitrust cases involving technology-based “platform” businesses, such as ride-sharing and short-term home rentals, that have become a substantial and growing component of the economy. The outcomes in future cases are likely to turn on the strength of the evidence showing that network effects constrain pricing decisions. Makan Delrahim, the head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, said this past week that he had feared the Supreme Court would cause “harm to our economy” by creating a rule for evaluating two-sided markets that would harm new “platform” business models like Uber, AirBnB and eBay. He described DOJ’s philosophy with respect to the case as “it’s one interrelated market, it’s a new business model, and you can’t stick your head in the sand and say, ‘If you’re raising the prices – whether on the consumer or driver – it can’t have an effect.’ And it could be a positive effect, because a Lyft can do the same thing and now be able to compete better with an Uber or whatever the next one would be.”  While Mr. Delrahim acknowledged that the Amex ruling likely would apply to companies like Uber and AirBnB, he does not believe Google will benefit from it, noting that consumers do not use Google Search just to see advertisements. Although the Amex decision is notable for its focus on commercial realities and acceptance of the existence of two-sided markets, there are other significant aspects of the decision.  Most notably, the Court discussed a three-step, burden-shifting framework for analyzing restraints under the rule of reason. This provides welcome guidance, as the Court had not previously discussed any framework or methodology for evaluating claims under the rule of reason.  While the framework was agreed-upon among the parties below, its adoption by the majority (and acceptance by the dissent) nevertheless provides important instruction regarding the steps to be conducted by courts in weighing rule of reason claims under either Section 1 or Section 2.  In the first step of the decision’s framework, the plaintiff bears the burden to prove anticompetitive effects in the relevant market. If the plaintiff carries that burden, in the second step the burden shifts to the defendant to demonstrate a procompetitive rationale for the challenged restraint. If the defendant makes that showing, then in the third step the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to “demonstrate that the procompetitive efficiencies could reasonably be achieved through less restrictive means.” The Court held that plaintiffs had not satisfied the first step of the rule of reason framework. As with many cases, the Court’s definition of the relevant market determined the outcome. To prove anticompetitive effects, plaintiffs relied solely on direct evidence of Amex’s increases in merchant fees during 2005-2010. However, the Court concluded that because the market was two-sided, such evidence was incomplete and did not demonstrate anticompetitive effects in the form of either higher prices for credit card transactions or a reduction in the number of such transactions. Indeed, the Court found that certain evidence in the record cut against plaintiffs’ claim that the anti-steering provisions were the cause of any increases in merchant fees by Amex—for example, rival card companies had also increased merchant fees. The Court also noted that credit card transaction output had increased substantially during the relevant period, further undermining any claim of anticompetitive effects. Quoting from Brooke Group, 509 U.S. at 237, the majority wrote that it will “not infer competitive injury from price and output data absent some evidence that tends to prove that output was restricted or prices were above a competitive level.”  The Court’s focus on output restriction under Brooke Group demonstrates that the Court’s continued insistence on the application of sound economic principles in evaluating antitrust claims. While it noted Amex’s rationale for the anti-steering provisions, the Court did not address the second or third step of the rule of reason framework given its finding that the plaintiffs had failed to satisfy the first step. The Court’s recognition in the third step that proven procompetitive efficiencies may be overcome by a showing of less restrictive means of achieving those efficiencies will likely cause private plaintiffs and enforcement agencies to increase their focus on potential alternatives. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. Please feel free to contact any member of the firm’s Antitrust and Competition practice group or the following authors: Trey Nicoud – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8308, tnicoud@gibsondunn.com) Rod J. Stone – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7256, rstone@gibsondunn.com) Daniel G. Swanson – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7430, dswanson@gibsondunn.com) Richard G. Parker – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8503, rparker@gibsondunn.com) M. Sean Royall – Dallas (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Chelsea G. Glover – Dallas (+1 214-698-3357, cglover@gibsondunn.com)