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MLex Market Insight
24 minutes | Jul 30, 2021
What the Aon-WTW deal’s collapse says about US merger law; and a key appointment at Brazil’s CADE
In the biggest merger regulatory challenge to hit the US under the Biden Administration, insurance broker Aon announced that it would walk away from its proposed union with Willis Towers Watson. The collapse of the deal amounted to a victory for the US Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland, with Aon concluding that the opposition to the deal was just too great to proceed. It was a victory predicated on a conventional interpretation of the law — the same old-school rules that had previously been disparaged by President Joe Biden. Also on the podcast this week: How the appointment of Alexandre Cordeiro to the Brazilian competition authority’s tribunal is likely to affect CADE’s operations in coming years.
33 minutes | Jul 23, 2021
Didi’s data remains central to enforcement in China; and the one-year anniversary of Schrems II
The sudden and unprecedented enforcement action targeting China’s largest ride-hailing company Didi appears to have opened yet another chapter in Beijing’s crackdown on the country’s tech giants. The order for Didi to remove a suite of apps just days after the company’s IPO in the US may have been driven by security and commercial concerns over foreign access to large swathes of data generated by the service’s users. Also on today’s podcast, we mark the first-year anniversary of the “Schrems II” court ruling, which nullified the so-called Privacy Shield that had allowed for data transfers to take place between the European Union and the United States. The decision brought deep uncertainty to transatlantic business dealings, yet a solution to the problem remains elusive, complicated by the absence of a federal privacy legislation in the US.
32 minutes | Jul 16, 2021
The EU’s ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions; and Biden outlines his antitrust vision
The European Union’s ambitious plan to transform the region’s economy in a bid to combat climate change took a step forward this week, with the announcement of a series of proposals that would help reach ambitious targets to cut the bloc’s carbon emissions. Under the EU’s proposed “Fit for 55” package, which sets a 55 percent emissions cut from 1990 levels by 2030, companies across the energy, transport and heavy industry sectors face a mix of carbon-pricing measures and regulations to accelerate the switch to cleaner fuels and energy sources. Also on this week’s podcast: the Biden administration’s wide-ranging executive order sets out an antitrust and privacy vision with wide-ranging implications for Big Tech.
20 minutes | Jul 9, 2021
The politics of classifying nuclear power in the EU; and 10 years of UK Bribery Act
The green credentials of nuclear power have come under recent scrutiny in the European Union, as the bloc ponders whether to label as environmentally friendly investment in the industry. The argument of what’s referred to as the taxonomy of nuclear energy is pitting scientist against scientist and, more importantly, the pro-nuclear energy France against the nuclear skeptic Germany. Yet the impasse over how to classify the investment status of nuclear may suit the European Commission, as it navigates its way through a politically charged scientific debate. Also on today’s podcast, we take a look at the 10-year anniversary of the UK Bribery Act. The legislation is being regarded as a qualified success that has provided a strong deterrent against corporate wrongdoing. However, the low number of criminal convictions means that corrupt top executives won’t be losing much sleep.
24 minutes | Jul 2, 2021
Facebook and Google’s adtech practices are back on the regulatory agenda in Europe and Asia
Digital advertising is back on the agenda in Europe, with the announcement of a fresh EU antitrust probe targeting Google’s practice of hoovering up data to better target advertising. However, the new investigation will also leave room for parallel action by regulators in Germany and France, with the European Commission skirting around the national watchdogs’ focus areas: online market power and the market for serving online ads. Meanwhile, in South Korea the local competition regulator is looking into the adtech practices of both Facebook and Google, while an Australian report into digital advertising is expected to put forward recommendations for the regulation of digital advertising.
25 minutes | Jun 25, 2021
GDPR’s one-stop-shop principle is put to the test; and the EU-UK clash over trade settings
A central part of the EU’s ambitious privacy legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, was put to the test recently, with a European court asked to rule on whether Belgium’s data-privacy regulator had the right to pursue an investigation into Facebook. The question went to the heart of a central mechanism of the GDPR: the so-called one-stop-shop. But the EU court’s ruling wasn’t as cut and dried as some may have hoped. Also on this week’s podcast: UK steelmakers are facing stiffer competition from foreign rivals, while also facing limits on selling in their competitors’ markets. The predicament is linked to “safeguards” — trade tools that have highlighted trade-policy differences between the UK and the EU in a post-Brexit world.
27 minutes | Jun 18, 2021
Why voice activation is shaping up as the next big thing in Big Tech regulation
The next time you ask Alexa for information or bark out an order at Siri — or even just order a burger at your McDonald’s drive through — you’ll find yourself at the heart of what could become one of the most significant regulatory challenges of the next decade. Whether it’s your fingerprints, the retina or your eyes or the sound of your voice, your biometric data is of value to any company wanting to get a sense of what you like and what products you’re likely to buy. On today’s podcast, we look at how biometric data concerns are playing out in US courts, as well as the European Union’s probe of antitrust concerns tied to Big Tech’s use of your vocal-cord vibrations as the access point to a world of services and products.
24 minutes | Jun 11, 2021
The push for beneficial-ownership registries goes global; ENRC turns the tables on the SFO
The global push for registries revealing what people and interests lie behind even the most obscure of shell companies is gaining momentum, with a UN special session prompting a renewal of commitment to establishing ownership databases. But while the mounting interest in the registries is being welcomed, the models being embraced by key players in the fight against corruption can differ. Also on today’s podcast: The Kazakh mining company ENRC has been under investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office since 2013. But in a London court, the company has taken aim at both one of its former lawyers and the SFO itself over their communications in the course of the ongoing probe.
31 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
Failure of Country Care criminal-cartel trial points to future challenges for Australian enforcer
This week’s failure by Australian prosecutors to secure a conviction in the first criminal-cartel trial in over 100 years spells trouble for the country’s competition enforcer, which investigated the case. The Country Care prosecution has been widely regarded as a dry run for next year’s criminal-cartel trial targeting some of the world’s largest and best resourced banks. Also on the podcast this week, the death by a thousand cuts of Indonesia’s highly regarded anti-corruption agency.
23 minutes | May 28, 2021
The EU Clash Over Fishing Rights And Banking Access; European Fight For The Environment In Court
Fish for finance” may sound like a trendy eatery in London’s West End, but it is simply the latest round of post-Brexit animosity between the United Kingdom and the European Union over access to each other’s markets. The case has attracted some public attention — in no small part as a result of London’s decision to send navy ships to protect its territorial waters around the island of Jersey from French fishermen. But the mechanics of the case are part of the dry, procedural side of negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU. Also on this week’s podcast: why European environmentalists are increasingly turning to the courts to pressure governments into climate-change action, and why they’re succeeding.
20 minutes | May 21, 2021
Epic’s Apple lawsuit sparks a court debate about App Store availability of online smut
The legal clash between Epic, the maker of the popular videogame Fortnite, and tech company Apple has prompted some unusual exchanges in a US court, with senior company executives questioned over their anatomical understanding of a tuxedoed, anthropomorphic banana called Agent Peely. It’s all part of Epic’s antitrust lawsuit over Apple’s management of its App Store and accusations that the tech giant’s high security standards are leading to violations of competition law.
24 minutes | May 14, 2021
Who killed Latvia’s ABLV Bank? And the risks of Europe’s tough new stance on foreign subsidies
Like a good murder novel, the demise of ABLV Bank of Latvia has left us with a chalk silhouette on the sidewalk, but with little clarity about who committed the crime. Now, the demise of the bank in the wake of a money-laundering scandal has left out-of-pocket investors determined to crack open the European Union’s byzantine financial-services oversight mechanism. Also on the podcast: the European Union’s new discretionary powers to fight foreign subsidies. There’s no name checking of China in the official documents, but the bloc’s efforts appear squarely targeted in managing the behaviors of Beijing-backed enterprises.
19 minutes | May 7, 2021
Serco fraud acquittals deal a heavy blow to the UK prosecutor
The acquittal of two Serco executives who had been facing fraud charges in the UK amounts to a serious blow for the Serious Fraud Office. The enforcer has been struggling to secure the conviction of individuals, even when it has succeeded in demanding fines and admissions of guilt from the companies that employ those charged. Meanwhile, anyone accepting a bribe on the idyllic island of Barbados could soon be facing the long arm of US law, with a court sentencing a former minister of the Caribbean country to two years’ jail over money-laundering charges. The case of Donville Inniss has highlighted how US money-laundering laws can be used as a backdoor avenue for prosecutors to target foreign officials.
18 minutes | Apr 30, 2021
Big Tech hit by China’s multipronged antitrust enforcement; Petroecuador’s fight for restitution
China has demonstrated to some of the country’s largest technology players that antitrust oversight isn’t limited to the State Administration for Market Regulation — the top competition enforcer. Recent events in the country show that, when needed, all regulatory agencies are prepared to pitch in. Also on today’s podcast: the Petroecuador bribery saga. The company wanted to recover money from a bribe payer; but a US judge baulked at granting the troubled Latin American oil company its restitution claim.
25 minutes | Apr 23, 2021
National regulators call for sharper M&A tools; soccer’s Super League antitrust dimensions
The joint statement by the antitrust regulators of Australia, Germany and the UK this week was a chance for antitrust officials to call for sharper tools to manage mergers and acquisitions — with particular regard to fast-moving digital markets. The regulators also warned that behavioral remedies of the type put forward by Google to get its acquisition of smartwatch maker Fitbit past regulators in the European Union may be unenforceable. Also on the podcast: What the super-implosion of soccer’s Super League tells us about European antitrust.
20 minutes | Apr 16, 2021
Illumina’s $7.1 billion play for cancer startup Grail faces global headwinds
On March 30, the US Federal Trade Commission challenged Illumina’s proposed acquisition of cancer diagnostic startup Grail, arguing that Illumina would have both the incentive and the ability to disadvantage Grail’s competitors by denying them access to its essential, next-generation sequencing technology. The deal has tapped into global regulatory concerns over vertical acquisitions, pharmaceutical deals and so-called killer acquisitions.
29 minutes | Apr 9, 2021
Google’s Supreme Court copyright victory against Oracle marks the end of era
Google’s United States Supreme Court copyright win against Oracle over the development of the Android operating system was a huge development, with the case spending the past 10 years bouncing around courts in the US. The ruling is significant because it may shed some light on how tech developers can add value to existing coding. Also on the podcast this week: How China’s electronic media is playing a role in increasing the public’s understanding of privacy.
17 minutes | Apr 7, 2021
The legacy of regulation and enforcement left by Australia’s bold digital platform investigation
Australia’s world-first antitrust review of Facebook and Google’s business models has spawned a new generation of regulation and enforcement, with the country’s competition watchdog using consumer lawsuits, market inquiries and merger reviews to create one of the western world’s most assertive regulatory regimes. But as a recent MLex Special Report argues, there are signs that the legacy of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s 18-month Digital Platforms Inquiry, which wound up in 2019, could yet be tarnished by the reluctance of Australia’s courts to embrace significant parts of the regulator’s agenda.
33 minutes | Apr 2, 2021
The case for witnesses keeping it simple in antitrust cases and Asean’s competition challenge
Expert witnesses that struggle to converse in a way that is accessible to both judges and juries and who can’t write a report that doesn’t run into thousands of pages may be doing more harm than good to the antitrust case they are supporting. According to a judge who spoke at a recent American Bar Association antitrust conference, the quality of an expert witness can make or break a competition lawsuit. Also on today’s podcast, the case for Southeast Asian countries to work together in regulating both international and home-grown digital companies.
20 minutes | Mar 26, 2021
California becomes first US state to establish a sole-purpose data-protection agency
It has happened: The California Privacy Protection Agency has become the first standalone privacy enforcer to be established in the United States. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s appointment of five people to the board of the new agency has focused public attention on the CPPA’s role; it has also raised the prospect of other states following California’s lead and establishing their own privacy frameworks.
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