Thursday, May 02, 2013

Mergers Reported under HSR Act Down Slightly in FY 2012

This posting was written by Tobias J. Gillett, Contributor to Wolters Kluwer Antitrust Law Daily.

The number of mergers reported under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Premerger Notification Program between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012 decreased approximately 1.4% from the previous fiscal year, according to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Annual Report for fiscal year 2012, issued on April 31 by the FTC and Department of Justice Antitrust Division.

The report states that 1,429 transactions were reported under the HSR Act during FY 2012, down from the 1,450 reported in FY 2011, but still significantly more than the 1,166 reported in FY 2010 and the 716 reported in FY 2009.

During FY 2012, the FTC brought 25 merger enforcement actions, including three in which the Commission initiated administrative litigation; 15 in which it accepted consent orders for public comment; 14 which resulted in final orders (with one still pending); and seven in which the transactions were abandoned or restructured as a result of antitrust concerns raised during the investigation.

The Antitrust Division also challenged 19 merger transactions that it concluded might have substantially lessened competition if allowed to proceed as proposed. These challenges resulted in seven consent decrees, seven abandoned transactions, two restructured transactions, and three transactions in which the parties changed their conduct to resolve Justice Department concerns. In addition, the agencies brought two actions against parties for failing to comply with the HSR notification requirements, resulting in a total of $1.35 million in civil penalties.

Other highlights of the report include a 10.9% decline from FY 2011 in the number of merger investigations in which second requests were issued, from 55 in FY 2011 to 49 in FY 2012. The number of transactions in which early termination was requested decreased from 82% (1,157) of reported transactions to 78% (1,094) of such transactions, while the number of requests granted out of the total requested increased from 77% in fiscal year 2011 to 82% in fiscal year 2012.

The report also discusses recent developments in HSR enforcement, including the FTC’s August 2012 issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing changes to the premerger notification rules. The changes would revise the rules to provide a framework for determining when a transaction involving the transfer of rights to a patent in the pharmaceutical industry is reportable under the HSR Act. The FTC also published adjustments to its reporting thresholds, as required by the 2000 amendments to Section 7A of the Clayton Act, that increase the threshold from $66 million to $68.2 million.

The report contains descriptions of various FTC and Antitrust Division enforcement actions and includes appendices with tables of statistics summarizing transactions from fiscal years 2003-2012, as well as tables regarding the number of transactions reported and filings received by month during that period and data profiling Hart-Scott-Rodino premerger notification filings and enforcement interests. The report concludes that the HSR Act continues to do "what Congress intended, giving the government the opportunity to investigate and challenge those relatively large mergers that are likely to harm consumers before injury can arise."

The HSR Act requires certain proposed acquisitions of voting securities or assets to be reported to the FTC and the Antitrust Division prior to consummation. It imposes a waiting period, usually of 30 days (15 days in the case of a cash tender offer or a bankruptcy sale), before the parties may complete the transaction. The FTC and DOJ can issue second requests for more information, which will extend the waiting period for 30 days (10 days in the case of a cash tender offer or a bankruptcy sale) after compliance with the request. The FTC and DOJ may challenge the transaction in federal district court or in administrative proceedings.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Supreme Court Will Not Review Application of “Single Publication Rule” Barring Chuck Yeager’s Publicity Rights, Lanham Act Claims

This posting was written by John W. Arden.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review the Ninth Circuit’s application of the “single publication rule” to an allegedly unauthorized endorsement posted on a website in 2003, effectively barring on statute of limitations grounds Chuck Yeager’s claims brought under California right of privacy and publicity laws and the federal Lanham Act. The high court today denied the petition for certiorari in Yeager v. Bowlin, Docket No. 12-1047, filed February 22, 2013.

In 2008, well known pilot Yeager brought an action against Connie and Ed Bowlin, claiming that statements on their “Aviation Autographs” website violated California’s common law right of privacy and right of publicity statute and that the use of his name, likeness, and identity to market memorabilia violated the Lanham Act. The federal district court in Sacramento dismissed the claims, applying the single publication rule, holding that the claims accrued in 2003, and concluding that the claims were time-barred.

In an opinion addressing the California claims, the Ninth Circuit ruled that there was no evidence in the record that the Bowlins added or changed any statements about Yeager after October 2003 and thus the right of privacy and publicity claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations.

In a separate unpublished memorandum decision, the Ninth Circuit held that Yeager’s Lanham Act false endorsement claim also was barred by the single-publication rule. The appeals court acknowledged that it had not resolved whether a statute of limitations defense applies to claims under the Lanham Act, which are of “equitable character.” However, the court declined to address the issue on the theory that Yeager waived this argument by failing to raise it in the district court in his opposition to a defense motion for summary judgment.

The single publication rule limits tort claims premised on mass communication to the original publication date. While created to apply to print publications, the single publication rule also governs publications on the Internet, according to the appeals court. “In print and on the internet, statements are generally considered ‘published’ when they are first made available to the public.”

Under the single publication rule, the statute of limitations is reset when a statement is republished. A statement in a printed publication is republished when it is reprinted in something that is not part of the same “single integrated publication.” One general rule is that a statement is republished when it is repeated or recirculated to a new audience. As previously held by the Ninth Circuit, website operators did not republish a statement by simply continuing to host the website.

Yeager argued that the website was republished—and the statute of limitations restarted—every time the website was added to or revised, even if the new content did not reference or depict Yeager. The Ninth Circuit disagreed. “We reject Yeager’s argument and hold that, under California law, a statement on a website is not republished unless the statement itself is substantively altered or added to, or the website is directed to a new audience.”

In his petition for review, Yeager asked: “Does California’s single-publication rule govern the accrual of a Lanham Act claim arising from a web-based merchant’s refusal to remove a celebrity’s unauthorized endorsement from a merchant’s website?”