Washington Post: Three things expected from Comcast-TWC merger hearing

The Washington Post

Three things to expect from Thursday’s Comcast-TWC merger hearing” by Brian Fung

Revisiting the NBC Universal merger: Allen Grunes, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer, is expected to say that the conditions that applied to Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal — such as a commitment to respect net neutrality and to help promote media diversity — won’t be enough to ensure adequate competition in a Comcast deal. “The most comprehensive study to date has shown that merger-specific regulation, like regulation as a whole, often does not work,” Grunes says in his prepared testimony.

Maurice Stucke comments on Comcast deal to CNNMoney

Comcast deal to face antitrust hurdles

“”The FCC is going to be the wild card,” said Maurice Stucke, antitrust law professor at the University of Tennessee and an attorney at law firm GeyerGorey. “This is the opportunity for the new chief to take a stance and become a vocal regulator.””

Allen Grunes comments on Comcast merger in Gigaom and Wall Street Journal’

Everything you need to know about the proposed $45B Comcast-Time Warner merger

“Allen Grunes, an antitrust lawyer with GeyerGorey LLP, told the Wall Street Journal: ‘There’s very little political will right now in the U.S. to keep pipes and content separate, or to limit the national reach of a cable company like Comcast. My guess is that if Comcast is able to make some serious and enforceable commitments to the FCC, the deal will go through.'” 

9/18/2013 Business Week: AMR-US Airways Unions Meet U.S. Official on Merger Suit

9/18/2013 Business Week: AMR-US Airways Unions Meet U.S. Official on Merger Suit


GeyerGorey LLP’s Allen Grunes quoted in Washington Post: “AMR, US Airways Attack U.S. Merger Suit as Bad for Consumers.”

AMR, US Airways Attack U.S. Merger Suit as Bad for Consumers

David McLaughlin and Sara Forden
Sep 11, 2013 11:52 am ET

Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) — American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. defended their proposed merger against a U.S. antitrust lawsuit, saying the combination would generate more than $500 million a year in benefits to consumers.

The combined airline will create an effective competitor to Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc., the airlines said in filings yesterday in federal court in Washington arguing that the U.S. effort to stop the deal should be denied.

“It is the complaint — by interposing the heavy hand of federal and state regulation — which will lessen competition by precluding the market from creating new and competitive flight options for passengers,” Tempe, Arizona-based US Airways said.

The U.S. Justice Department, joined by seven states and the District of Columbia, are suing American parent AMR Corp. and US Airways to block the merger, arguing the tie-up would reduce competition and hurt consumers. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has scheduled the case to go to trial beginning Nov. 25.

The U.S. and the attorneys general argue the proposed merger, by reducing the number of legacy carriers from four to three, would increase the likelihood of coordinated behavior among the airlines, leading to higher fares and fees and diminished service. American and US Airways can compete effectively on their own, the government has said.

Service Cuts

The main issue in the case is whether the merger would lead to cuts in service and increases in domestic fares, said Allen Grunes, a lawyer with GeyerGorey LLP in Washington who formerly worked in the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

“The American and U.S. Airways answers paint a picture of the merger as some kind of silver bullet that will miraculously transform the two companies into the greatest thing since sliced bread,” he said. “That’s more than a little optimistic, and it’s going to be tough for them to prove it.”

The merger, which would create the world’s largest airline, forms the basis for American’s plan to exit bankruptcy protection and pay creditors. Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR filed for bankruptcy in November 2011 and reached the merger agreement with US Airways in February.

“We believe this merger would result in consumers paying more for airfares and receiving less service,” Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said in an e-mail. “The department’s lawsuit seeks to maintain competition in the airline industry.”

More Competition

American said in its court filing that the deal with US Airways would create a more competitive airline industry that would give passengers more choices.

The U.S. complaint “concocts an imaginary narrative where airlines tacitly collude and where prices are higher than in the past, but the real facts are just the opposite,” American said.

US Airways said the U.S. complaint improperly focuses on maintaining the number of legacy carriers, “those airlines that, prior to 1978, endured the well-documented failure of federal regulation of routes and fares.” Those carriers are by most relevant measures the least financially successful companies in the industry, US Airways said.

Low-Cost Competition

The U.S. ignores the effect on the airline industry of low- cost carriers including Southwest Airlines Co. and JetBlue Airways Corp., according to the filing. The success of those airlines is the “most meaningful competitive development” in the industry since deregulation, US Airways said.

During the past 12 years, American lost $10.3 billion and US Airways lost $3.4 billion, according to the filing by US Airways. US Airways has been in bankruptcy twice in that period.

“Blocking the merger will not sharpen competition — it will prolong this cycle of crisis to the detriment of passengers, the employees of American and US Airways, and the communities the airlines serve,” US Airways said.

The case is U.S. v. US Airways Group Inc., 13-cv-01236, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

Law 360: DOJ’s Airline Merger Challenge Recalls AT&T Fight

“If you think since the 1990s, what’s been popular has always been a unilateral effects theory,” said Stucke, who is also of counsel at GeyerGorey LLP. “This is almost entirely a coordinated effects theory, [and] I think it’s very strategically well thought-out, [because the airlines] can’t really now divest a few landings. The way the complaint is described, it’s hard to see any remedies short of a full-blown injunction.”

DOJ’s Airline Merger Challenge Recalls AT&T Fight



Maurice Stucke: Looking at Monopsony in the Mirror 62 Emory L.J. 1509 (2013)

Although still a distant second to monopoly, buyer power and monopsony are hot topics in the competition community. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Competition Network (ICN), and American Antitrust Institute (AAI) have studied monopsony and buyer power recently. The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission pay more attention to buyer power in their 2010 merger guidelines than they did in their earlier guidelines. With growing buyer concentration in commodities such as coffee, tea, and cocoa, and among retailers, buyer power is a human rights issue. (Continue Reading)

More Biographical Information for Maurice E. Stucke

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

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Anheuser-Busch InBev and Grupo Modelo in Beer Case

Divestitures of Piedras Negras Brewery, Perpetual Licenses to Modelo Beer Brands, and Other Assets Will Maintain Competition in the Beer Industry Nationwide

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (ABI) and Grupo Modelo S.A.B. de C.V. that requires the companies to divest Modelo’s entire U.S. business – including licenses of Modelo brand beers, its most advanced brewery, Piedras Negras, its interest in Crown Imports LLC and other assets – to Constellation Brands Inc., in order to go forward with their merger.    The department said the proposed settlement will maintain competition in the beer industry nationwide, benefitting consumers.

Today’s proposed settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.    If approved by the court, the settlement will resolve the department’s competitive concerns.

On Jan. 31, 2013, the department filed an antitrust lawsuit against ABI and Modelo alleging that ABI’s $20.1 billion acquisition of the remaining interest in Modelo that ABI did not already own, as originally proposed, would substantially lessen competition in the market for beer in the United States as a whole and in at least 26 metropolitan areas across the United States.    The department alleged that the transaction would result in consumers paying more for beer and would limit innovation in the beer market.


“Before the merger, there were two competitors – Modelo and ABI – and ABI owned a substantial stake in Modelo.    The companies’ proposed merger would have reduced those two competitors to one – ABI.  The proposed settlement announced today will create an independent, fully integrated and economically viable competitor to ABI.    This is a win for the $80 billion U.S. beer market and consumers,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.    “If this settlement makes just a one percent difference in prices, U.S. consumers will save almost $1 billion a year.”

The settlement requires ABI and Modelo to divest Modelo’s entire U.S. business to Constellation or to an alternative purchaser if for some reason the transaction with Constellation cannot be completed.    Specifically, the settlement requires ABI and Modelo to divest:    the Piedras Negras brewery, Modelo’s newest, most technologically advanced brewery; perpetual and exclusive licenses of the Modelo brand beers for distribution and sale in the United States; Modelo’s current interest in Crown – the joint venture established by Modelo and Constellation to import, market and sell certain Modelo beers into the United States; and other assets, rights and interests necessary to ensure that Constellation is able to compete in the U.S. beer market using the Modelo brand beers, independent of a relationship to ABI and Modelo.


The licensed brands include all seven brands that Modelo currently offers (through its distributor, Crown) in the United States – Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, Modelo Light, Pacifico and Victoria – as well as three brands not yet offered in the United States, but currently sold by Modelo in Mexico – Pacifico Light, Barrilito and León.   The licenses include rights that will give Constellation the ability to adapt to changing market conditions in the United States.


Constellation has committed to expand the capacity of Piedras Negras in order to meet current and future demand for the Modelo brands in the United States, and that commitment is a condition of the proposed settlement.    The settlement also sets milestones for the expansion of the Piedras Negras brewery.    In order to enable Constellation to compete in the United States during the time it takes to expand the Piedras Negras brewery’s capacity to brew and bottle beer, the settlement requires ABI to enter into interim supply and transition services agreements with Constellation.   These agreements are time-limited to ensure that Constellation will become a fully independent competitor to ABI as soon as practicable.


ABI and Modelo originally proposed selling Modelo’s stake in Crown to Constellation and entering into a 10-year supply agreement to provide Modelo beer to Constellation to import into the United States.    The department rejected that purported fix because it would have eliminated the Modelo brands as an independent competitive force in the United States beer market.    Unlike the companies’ original proposal, which left Constellation with no brewing assets and beholden to ABI for the supply of beer, the proposed settlement ensures that Constellation, or an alternative purchaser, will have independent brewing assets and the ownership of the Modelo beer brands for sale in the United States in perpetuity.    As a result, Constellation will fully replace Modelo as a competitor in the United States.


ABI is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Belgium, with headquarters in Leuven, Belgium.    ABI brews and markets more beer sold in the United States than any other firm, with a 39 percent market share nationally.    ABI owns and operates 125 breweries worldwide, including 12 in the United States.    It owns more than 200 different beer brands, including Bud Light – the best-selling brand in the United States – and other popular brands such as Budweiser, Busch, Michelob, Natural Light, Stella Artois, Goose Island and Beck’s.


Modelo is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Mexico, with headquarters in Mexico City.    Modelo is the third-largest brewer of beer sold in the United States, with a seven percent market share nationally.    Modelo owns Corona Extra–the top-selling beer imported into the United States.    Its other popular brands sold in the United States include Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, Victoria and Pacifico.    Crown imports, markets and sells Modelo’s brands into the United States.    ABI currently holds a 35.3 percent direct interest in Modelo and a 23.3 percent direct interest in Modelo’s operating subsidiary Diblo.


Constellation, headquartered in Victor, N.Y, is a beer, wine and spirits company with a portfolio of more than 100 products, including Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Ruffino and SVEDKA Vodka.    It produces wine and distilled spirits, with more than 40 facilities worldwide.

The proposed settlement, along with the department’s competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register, consistent with the requirements of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act.   Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement within 60 days of its publication to James Tierney, Chief, Networks and Technology Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 7100, Washington, D.C. 20530.   The comments will be published in the Federal Register.   At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the court may enter the final judgment upon a finding that it serves the public interest.

***Antitrust Monitor (2 of 2)*** Informal Blog Post by Robert Zastrow regarding Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Proposed Acquisition of Grupo Modelo

Today’s Wall Street Journal article regarding Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Proposed Acquisition of Grupo Modelo ( US Fights AB InBev With Tested Game Plan by Brent Kendall), brought back memories of my life before Verizon when I was general counsel to the New York State Beer Wholesalers’ Association and prosecuting attorney in connection with the Heileman Schlitz merger.
I commend Mr. Kendall’s article, which emphasizes the degree to which DOJ now relies on “hot documents” in merger cases.  In this particular case, DOJ cites emails in which AB executives worried about pricing pressure from Modelo.  The key issue is likely to be whether Modelo was a cause for particular concern, or whether other premium brands, e.g. Heineken, posed similar issues, not because the premium brands were sold at the same price as Bud, but because if the gap between Bud and Modelo narrowed, customers would trade up.  Presumably, this would not include construction workers such as my wife’s crew chief, who had a large Bud tattoo on his right arm!
This article underscores the importance of early attorney involvement in merger planning.  How easier it would have been for AB had the lawyers emphasized the importance of documents to the marketing and sales staffs.  And, even if the company seeks counsel later, it is never a bad idea for counsel to get the files from a small number of marketing and sales executives to see what they say about the target.   Acquirers can pay premiums reaching the billions if a merger does not consummate, and an early assessment of the risk caused by bad documents is essential.
I vividly recall sitting on a panel in the mid 90’s with a former AAG, who shall go nameless.  He assured the audience that corporate counsel would soon develop procedures for monitoring emails and insuring that incriminating statements were not recorded.  The Bar did not realize then how ubiquitous electronic communications would become — there was barely an Internet then — and how difficult it would be to monitor hundreds of executives who were generating content at their computers all day.