“My take is this deal is dead” states Allen Grunes in Bloomberg: “AMR-US Airways Antitrust Suit Seen as Difficult to Settle”

From Bloomberg:

The challenge brought by the U.S. Justice Department can be compared with its lawsuit seeking to block AT&T Inc. (T)’s proposed takeover of T-Mobile USA Inc. in 2011, said Allen Grunes, an antitrust lawyer with GeyerGorey LLP. AT&T eventually dropped its bid for T-Mobile. “My take is that the deal is dead,” Grunes said. “Based on the complaint, this merger doesn’t look like it can be fixed with divestitures or slot sales.”

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AMR-US Airways Antitrust Suit Seen as Difficult to Settle


Maurice Stucke Quoted in Wall Street Journal’s “Merging Airlines, Concessions May Not Be Enough.”

“In the case of United Airlines and Continental Airlines, the companies cleared the hurdle after agreeing to lease 18 daily “slot pairs” — the government-issued rights to take off and land – at Newark Liberty International Airport to Southwest Airlines.

‘The DOJ really drew a line in the sand,” said Mr. Stucke. “They basically looked at all of the consolidations up to this point and found that consumers haven’t significantly benefited but rather consumers have been harmed.'”

For entire article, click below:

For Merging Airlines, Concessions May Not Be Enough


Justice Department Files Antitrust Lawsuit Challenging Proposed Merger Between US Airways and American Airlines Merger Would Result in U.S. Consumers Paying Higher Airfares and Receiving Less Service; Lawsuit Seeks to Maintain Competition in the Airline Industry

The Department of Justice, six state attorneys general and the District of Columbia filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today challenging the proposed $11 billion merger between US Airways Group Inc. and American Airlines’ parent corporation, AMR Corp.  The department said that the merger, which would result in the creation of the world’s largest airline, would substantially lessen competition for commercial air travel in local markets throughout the United States and result in passengers paying higher airfares and receiving less service.

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, along with the attorneys general, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which seeks to prevent the companies from merging and to preserve the existing head-to-head competition between the firms that the transaction would eliminate.   The participating attorneys general are:   Texas, where American Airlines is headquartered; Arizona, where US Airways is headquartered; Florida; the District of Columbia; Pennsylvania; Tennessee; and Virginia.

“Airline travel is vital to millions of American consumers who fly regularly for either business or pleasure,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.   “By challenging this merger, the Department of Justice is saying that the American people deserve better.   This transaction would result in consumers paying the price – in higher airfares, higher fees and fewer choices.   Today’s action proves our determination to fight for the best interests of consumers by ensuring robust competition in the marketplace.”

Last year, business and leisure airline travelers spent more than $70 billion on airfare for travel throughout the United States.    In recent years, major airlines have, in tandem, raised fares, imposed new and higher fees and reduced service, the department said.

“The department sued to block this merger because it would eliminate competition between US Airways and American and put consumers at risk of higher prices and reduced service,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “If this merger goes forward, even a small increase in the price of airline tickets, checked bags or flight change fees would result in hundreds of millions of dollars of harm to American consumers.   Both airlines have stated they can succeed on a standalone basis and consumers deserve the benefit of that continuing competitive dynamic.”

American and US Airways compete directly on more than a thousand routes where one or both offer connecting service, representing tens of billions of dollars in annual revenues.   They engage in head-to-head competition with nonstop service on routes worth about $2 billion in annual route-wide revenues.   Eliminating this head-to-head competition would give the merged airline the incentive and ability to raise airfares, the department said in its complaint.

According to the department’s complaint, the vast majority of domestic airline routes are already highly concentrated.  The merger would create the largest airline in the world and result in four airlines controlling more than 80 percent of the United States commercial air travel market.
The merger would also entrench the merged airline as the dominant carrier at Washington Reagan National Airport, with control of 69 percent of the take-off and landing slots.   The merged airline would have a monopoly on 63 percent of the nonstop routes served out of Reagan National airport.   As a result, Washington, D.C., area passengers would likely see higher prices and fewer choices if the merger is allowed, the department said in its complaint.   Blocking the merger will preserve current competition and service, including flights that US Airways currently offers from Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

The complaint also describes how, in recent years, the major airlines have succeeded in raising prices, imposing new fees and reducing service.  The complaint quotes several public statements by senior US Airways executives directly attributing this trend to a reduction in the number of competitors in the U.S. market:

  • President Scott Kirby said, “Three successful fare increases – [we are] able to pass along to customers because of consolidation.”
  • At an industry conference in 2012, Kirby said, “Consolidation has also…allowed the industry to do things like ancillary revenues…. That is a structural permanent change to the industry and one that’s impossible to overstate the benefit from it.”
  • As US Airways CEO Parker stated in February 2013, combining US Airways and American would be “ the last major piece needed to fully rationalize the industry.”
  • A US Airways document said that capacity reductions have “enabled” fare increases.

“The merger of these two important competitors will just make things worse –exacerbating current airline industry trends toward reduced service, increasing fares and increasing passenger fees,” added Baer.

As the complaint describes, absent the merger, US Airways and American will continue to provide important competitive constraints on each other and on other airlines.   Today, US Airways competes vigorously for price-conscious travelers by offering discounts of up to 40 percent for connecting flights on other airlines’ nonstop routes under its Advantage Fares program. The other legacy airlines – American, Delta and United – routinely match the nonstop fares where they offer connecting service in order to avoid inciting costly fare wars.   The Advantage Fares strategy has been successful for US Airways because its network is different from the networks of the larger carriers. If the proposed merger is completed, the combined airline’s network will look more like the existing American, Delta and United networks, and as a result, the Advantage Fares program will likely be eliminated, resulting in higher prices and less services for consumers. An internal analysis at American in October 2012, concluded, “The [Advantage Fares] program would have to be eliminated in a merger with American, as American’s large, nonstop markets would now be susceptible to reactionary pricing from Delta and United.”   And, another American executive said that same month, “The industry will force alignment to a single approach–one that aligns with the large legacy carriers as it is revenue maximizing.”   By ending the Advantage Fares program, the merger would eliminate lower fares for millions of consumers, the department said.

The complaint also alleges that the merger is likely to result in higher ancillary fees, such as fees charged for checked bags and flight changes.   In recent years, the airlines have introduced fees for those services, which were previously included in the price of a ticket. These fees have become huge profit centers for the airlines.   In 2012, domestic airlines generated more than $6 billion in fees from checked bags and flight changes alone.   The legacy carriers often match each other when one introduces or increases a fee, and if others do not match the initiating carrier tends to withdraw the change.   By reducing the number of airlines, the merger will likely make it easier for the remaining carriers to coordinate fee increases, resulting in higher fees for consumers.

The department also said that the merger will make coordination easier among the legacy carriers.   Although low-cost carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue offer consumers many benefits, they fly to fewer locations and are unlikely to be able to constrain the coordinated behavior among those carriers.

American Airlines is currently operating in bankruptcy.   Absent the merger, American is likely to exit bankruptcy as a vigorous competitor, with strong incentives to grow to better compete with Delta and United, the department said. American recently made the largest aircraft order in industry history, and its post-bankruptcy standalone plan called for increasing both the number of flights and the number of destinations served by those flights at each of its hubs.

The department’s complaint describes US Airways executives’ fear of American’s standalone growth plan as “industry destabilizing.”   The complaint states that US Airways worries that American’s growth plan would cause “others” to react “with their own enhanced growth plans…,” and that the resulting effect would increase competitive pressures throughout the industry.   The department said the merger will allow US Airways’ management to abandon these aggressive growth plans and continue the industry’s current trend toward higher prices and less service.

The department’s complaint states that executives of both airlines have repeatedly said that they do not need the merger to succeed.   The complaint states that US Airways’ CEO observed in December 2011, that “A[merican] is not going away, they will be stronger post-bankruptcy because they will have less debt and reduced labor costs.”   US Airways’ executive vice president wrote in July 2012, that, “There is NO question about AMR’s ability to survive on a standalone basis.”   And, as recently as January 2013, American’s management presented plans that would increase the destinations it serves in the United States and the frequency of its flights, and would position American to compete independently as a profitable airline with aggressive plans for growth.

AMR is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Fort Worth, Texas.   AMR is the parent company of American Airlines.   Last year American flew more than 80 million passengers to more than 250 destinations worldwide and took in more than $24 billion in revenue.   In November 2011, American filed for bankruptcy reorganization.

US Airways is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Tempe, Ariz.   Last year US Airways flew more than 50 million passengers to more than 200 destinations worldwide and took in more than $13 billion in revenue.

DLA Piper’s Robert Connolly pens MLEX article regarding “The DOJ Antitrust Division’s policy on independent compliance monitors: is it misguided?”

Friend of the Firm, Robert Connolly, former Chief of the Philadelphia Field Office of the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice, now resident in DLA Piper’s Philadelphia Office last week penned an important contribution for MLEX regarding DOJ’s evolving policy regarding compliance monitors:  “The DOJ Antitrust Divsion’s policy on independent compliance monitors: is it misguided?”


Allen Grunes quoted regarding Publicis-Omnicom Merger in Bloomberg News

Allen Grunes shared his perspective with Bloomberg News regarding the proposed Publicis-Omnicom Merger.  Click Below:

Publicis-Omnicom Merger Seen as Drawing Antitrust Look

Competition Policy International: US: New antitrust firm GeyerGorey snags DOJ lawyers after office closures

Click Below:

Competition Policy International: US: New antitrust firm GeyerGorey snags DOJ lawyers after office closures

Main Justice: Policy Politics and the Law: Former DOJ Attorneys Aim For New Model With GeyerGorey LLP Law Firm

Click Link Below———>

7/10/2013 Main Justice: “Former DOJ Attorneys Aim For New Model With GeyerGorey LLP Law Firm


The Hill: Lobbying World


Click Here:  The Hill: Lobbying World (June 25, 2013)

Former Executive at Florida-Based Lender Processing Services Inc. Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Role in Mortgage-Related Document Fraud Scheme

A former executive of Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS) – a publicly traded company based in Jacksonville, Fla. – was sentenced today to serve five years in prison for her participation in a six-year scheme to prepare and file more than 1 million fraudulently signed and notarized mortgage-related documents with property recorders’ offices throughout the United States, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Robert E. O’Neill, and Special Agent in Charge Michelle S. Klimt of the FBI Jacksonville Division.

Lorraine Brown, 56, of Alpharetta, Ga., was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. in the Middle District of Florida. In addition to her prison term, Brown was sentenced to serve two years of supervised release and ordered to pay a fine of $15,000.   On Nov. 20, 2012, Brown pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.   

“Lorraine Brown will spend five years in prison for her central role in a scheme to fraudulently execute thousands of mortgage-related documents while our nation’s housing market was at its most vulnerable point in generations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.  “The documents that were fraudulently produced under Brown’s direction were relied upon in court proceedings, including a significant number of foreclosure and bankruptcy matters. Today’s sentencing represents appropriate punishment for someone who sought to capitalize on the nation’s housing crisis.”

“Floridians were hard hit by the downturn in the real estate market,” said U.S. Attorney O’Neill.  “We will continue to pursue individuals like Brown who took advantage of consumers for personal gain and contributed to the financial crisis.  Prosecuting financial crimes remains a priority for our office.”

“The investigation of sophisticated mortgage and corporate fraud schemes continues to be a priority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as such criminal activities have a significant economic impact on our community,” said Special Agent in Charge Klimt.

Brown was an executive at LPS and the chief executive of DocX LLC, which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of LPS, until it was closed down in early 2010.    DocX’s main clients were residential mortgage servicers, which typically undertake certain actions for the owners of mortgage-backed promissory notes.    Servicers hired DocX to, among other things, assist in creating and executing mortgage-related documents filed with recorders’ offices.

According to Brown’s plea agreement, employees of DocX, at the direction of Brown and others, began forging and falsifying signatures of authorized personnel on the mortgage-related documents that they had been hired to prepare and file with property recorders’ offices.    Only specific personnel at DocX were authorized by clients to sign the documents, but the documents were fraudulently notarized as if actually executed by authorized DocX employees.

According to plea documents, Brown implemented these signing practices at DocX to enable DocX and Brown to generate greater profit.   Specifically, DocX was able to create, execute and file larger volumes of documents using these signing and notarization practices.    To further increase profits, DocX also hired temporary workers to act as authorized signers.    These temporary employees worked for much lower costs and without the quality control represented by Brown to DocX’s clients.   Some of these temporary workers were able to sign thousands of mortgage-related instruments a day.   Between 2003 and 2009, DocX generated approximately $60 million in gross revenue.

After these documents were falsely signed and fraudulently notarized, Brown authorized DocX employees to file and record them with local county property records offices across the country.   Many of these documents were later relied upon in court proceedings, including property foreclosures and federal bankruptcy actions.   Brown admitted she understood that property recorders, courts, title insurers and homeowners relied upon the documents as genuine.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Ryan Rohlfsen and Assistant Chief Glenn S. Leon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark B. Devereaux of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.    This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the state of Florida’s Department of Financial Services.

This case is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.

Former Security Contractor CEO Sentenced for Masterminding $31 Million Disadvantaged Small Business Fraud Scheme

The former chief executive officer of a Virginia-based security contracting firm was sentenced in the Eastern District of Virginia to 72 months in prison for creating a front company to obtain more than $31 million intended for disadvantaged small businesses and for bribing the former regional director for the National Capital Region of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) as part of the scheme. The front company obtained the contracts through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Section 8(a) program, which allows qualified small businesses to receive sole-source and competitive-bid contracts set aside for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Inspector General Paul K. Martin; SBA Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson; Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Special Agent in Charge of Mid-Atlantic Field Office Robert E. Craig; General Services Administration (GSA) Inspector General Brian D. Miller; and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Inspector General Charles K. Edwards made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.

“Keith Hedman used his expertise gleaned from decades as a government contractor to cheat the system and steal tens of millions from minority-owned small business owners,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “Today’s sentence shows that those who resort to deceit and bribery to secure federal contracts will be caught and held accountable.”

“Keith Hedman tried to game the system and take advantage of a government program designed to help minority-owned small businesses,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride.  “He committed fraud, he undermined the trust of the U.S. government and this type of conduct will not be tolerated.  My office is committed to prosecuting those who cheat the government to the fullest extent of the law.”    “I commend the outstanding efforts of our agents and the other law enforcement agencies involved in this case in protecting the integrity of the Federal Government’s procurement program and taxpayer dollars” said NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin.

Keith Hedman, 53, of Arlington, Va., was sentenced today after pleading guilty to major government fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery on March 13, 2013. Hedman was also ordered to forfeit approximately $6.1 million.

According to court documents, in or about 2011 Hedman formed Company A, which was approved to participate in the 8(a) program based on the 8(a) eligibility of its listed president and CEO, an African-American female. When the listed president and CEO left Company A in 2003, Hedman became its sole owner, and the company was no longer 8(a)-eligible.

In 2003, Hedman created Company B, another Arlington-based security contractor, to ensure that he could continue to gain access to 8(a) contracting preferences for which Company A was no longer qualified. Prior to applying for Company B’s 8(a) status, Hedman selected an employee, Dawn Hamilton, 48, of Brownsville, Md., to serve as a figurehead owner based on her Portuguese heritage and history of social disadvantage. In reality, the new company was managed by Hedman and Company A senior leadership in violation of 8(a) rules and regulations. To deceive the SBA, the co-conspirators falsely claimed that Hamilton formed and founded the company and that she was the only member of the company’s management. Based on those misrepresentations, Company B obtained 8(a) status in 2004.

From 2004 through February 2012, Hedman – not Hamilton – impermissibly exercised ultimate decision-making authority and control over Company B by directing its finances, allocation of personnel, and government contracting activities.  Hedman nonetheless maintained the impression that Hamilton was leading the company, including through forgeries of signatures of Hamilton to documents she had not seen or drafted. Hedman also retained ultimate control over the shell business’s bank accounts throughout its existence.  In 2010, Hedman withdrew $1 million in cash from Company B’s accounts and gave the funds in cash to Hamilton and three other conspirators. In 2011, Hedman approached Hamilton’s brother about starting another shell company to continue the scheme.  The trio submitted another fraudulent application to the SBA, but it was rejected.

Later in 2011, Hedman agreed to pay Derek Matthews, 47, of Harwood, Md., the former FPS Regional Director for the National Capital Region, $50,000 and a percentage of new business in exchange for Matthews helping Company B obtain contracts.  During the bribery scheme, Matthews served as FPS Deputy Assistant Director for Operations, a law enforcement position in which he had daily oversight of physical security programs and oversight of approximately 13,000 FPS officers at approximately 9,000 federal buildings.

In total, the scheme netted government contracts valued at more than $153 million, from which Company B obtained more than $31 million in contract payments. The various conspirators netted more than $6.1 million that they were not entitled to receive from those payments. Seven other defendants have pleaded guilty in the scheme.

This case is being investigated by NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the SBA -OIG, DCIS-OIG, GSA-OIG, and DHS-OIG, with assistance from the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chad Golder and Ryan Faulconer, a former Trial Attorney for the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.