Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trade Regulation Tidbits

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

News, updates, and observations:

 House Transportation Committee Chair James L. Oberstar (D, Minn.) announced his opposition to the proposed merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines in a conference call with reporters on May 6. Rep. Oberstar sent a letter on May 5 to Christine A. Varney, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, urging the agency’s disapproval of the proposed merger. "If United and Continental merge, another domino in a chain of mergers will fall, and there will be strong pressure for further consolidation, " Oberstar’s letter reads. "As I predicted when I wrote your predecessor in 2008 on the Delta-Northwest merger, approval of that merger created conditions that have persuaded Delta’s competitors to pursue their own combinations. The United-Continental transaction is the latest, but it likely will not be the last." The text of the letter is available here on the website of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

 Former FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris is the 2010 recipient of the Miles W. Kirkpatrick Award for Lifetime FTC Achievement. The award was announced on May 5. “Tim Muris provided inspired service to the Federal Trade Commission and to the American public,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, citing Muris’s contributions and the agency’s mission to protect consumers and encourage competition. “He understood the value of combining economic and legal analyses with common sense, and the measures he advanced to realize this vision, such as the National Do Not Call Registry, raised the FTC’s stature among public institutions throughout the world and among our nation’s consumers.” Muris served as FTC Chairman from 2001 through 2004. Earlier, he held other key positions at the Commission, including Director of the Bureau of Competition, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Assistant Director of the Planning Office. Currently, Muris is of counsel at the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers and is Co-Chair of the firm's Antitrust/Competition Practice. Further details appear here on the FTC website.

 Four current and former British Airways executives have been acquitted of price fixing charges by a jury in London, the United Kingdom Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced in a May 10 press release. The OFT said that it asked the jury to acquit the defendants in the U.K.'s first criminal competition law trial following "the discovery last week of a substantial volume of electronic material, which neither the OFT nor the defence had previously been able to review." The OFT said: "Given that the trial had already begun and the volume of material involved, the OFT accepts that to continue with the trial in light of this unforeseen development would be potentially unfair to the defendants." The OFT "acknowledge[d] responsibility for its part in this oversight, which occurred at a time when the UK criminal cartel regime was still relatively new and the OFT's approach to the handling of leniency applications in the context of parallel criminal and civil investigations was still evolving." The OFT also said that it would review the role played by Virgin Atlantic Airways and its advisers in light of the airline's obligations, as a leniency applicant, to cooperate with the OFT. The previously-undisclosed electronic material included e-mails sent or received by a former Virgin Atlantic employee. In an August 7, 2008 press release, the OFT announced that it had charged four individuals with cartel offenses, in connection with its criminal investigation into price-fixing of fuel surcharges for long-haul passenger flights. The individuals were alleged to have dishonestly agreed with others to make or implement arrangements that directly or indirectly fixed the price for the supply of passenger air transport services by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways in the United Kingdom. The charges related to a period between July 2004 and April 2006, when the defendants were employed by British Airways.

No comments: