Pfizer/AstraZeneca and the Public Interest: Do Vince Cable’s Foreign Takeover Proposals Prescribe the Right Medication?

August 12, 2014

(by David Reader) When US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer sought to acquire its UK-listed counterpart AstraZeneca earlier this year, discussion centred around the supposed adverse impact that the merger could have on the UK’s science base, particularly in light of Pfizer’s questionable track record for asset-stripping and cutting investment in R&D. Although the proposed £69 billion takeover ultimately crumbled, the prospect of Pfizer returning with an improved offer later in the year has led many to ask whether the UK should adopt a tougher stance on foreign takeovers that threaten the national interest. The UK’s Business Secretary, Vince Cable MP, has since proposed new safeguards to counteract these perceived threats – but do they represent the best course of action in practice? Read the rest of this entry »


The EU Commission Decision against Servier – a New Dimension to European Pharmaceutical Antitrust?

July 11, 2014

(by Sven Gallasch) On 9 July 2014 the European Commission announced its decision to impose a fine of €427.7 million on French drug maker Servier and five generic companies in relation to so-called ‘pay for delay’ settlements concerning Servier’s bestselling blood pressure drug perindopril. The case differs from the Commission’s earlier decisions against Lundbeck and Johnson & Johnson in a number of rather notable aspects, which will be addressed in this blog post. Read the rest of this entry »


Competition Policy and Scottish Independence

July 1, 2014

(by Andreas Stephan) On 18 September 2014 Scottish residents will be asked whether Scotland should be an independent country. A discussion was held at the recent Antitrust Enforcement Symposium (held by the University of Oxford’s Centre for Competition Law and Policy) regarding competition policy in an independent Scotland. This blog piece focuses on the impact independence would have on competition enforcement in Britain. Read the rest of this entry »


The First Real Test of Sentencing for the UK Cartel Offence

June 24, 2014

(by Andreas Stephan) A former managing director charged with the UK’s cartel offence has pleaded guilty to the criminal offence of price fixing. Peter Nigel Snee pleaded guilty to fixing the price of galvanised steel tanks used for water storage and now awaits sentencing. His case provides an important first test for the sentencing of cartelists under the UK’s criminal offence. Although Snee is the fourth individual to be convicted of the offence, the first three (in the Marine Hoses case) actually requested custodial sentences because of the peculiar conditions of a plea bargain entered into with the US Department of Justice. The issue of whether Snee receives a custodial sentence is important to justifying the use of criminal sanctions in UK cartel enforcement. Read the rest of this entry »


Is an in-depth energy market inquiry worth it?

March 27, 2014

(by Catherine Waddams) The decision to refer the energy market to the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be welcomed by many but will also have costs. On the positive side, the opportunity for a thorough review of the market enables analysis without immediate political pressure, either directly on the market or on the regulator. It is important to restore public confidence in the market, either by giving it a clean bill of health, or identifying any problems and remedying them. Read the rest of this entry »


Can the OFT Succeed in its Latest Attempt at Bringing Criminal Charges Against an Individual for Cartel Conduct?

February 18, 2014

(by Scott Summers) The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has charged Peter Nigel Snee under section 188 of the Enterprise Act 2002. It is alleged that he ‘dishonestly agreed with others’ to fix prices, allocate markets and rig bids in the market for galvanised steel tanks for water storage, between 2004 and 2012. This is the UK’s first criminal cartel prosecution since the collapse of the British Airways trial back in 2010,[1] which left a number of unanswered questions about the ‘dishonesty’ element and the UK cartel offence in general. The Snee case will fall under the existing cartel offence. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 will, from 1 April 2014, strip the ‘dishonesty’ element and introduce new carve-outs and defences to the offence. Read the rest of this entry »


Ofcom: A Credible Solution to Bias in Media Public Interest Mergers?

February 16, 2014

(by David Reader) On 4 February, the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications published its Report on Media Plurality proposing a number of changes to media ownership regulation in the UK. Among the most notable is the proposal to grant decision-making powers to the media regulator, Ofcom, in mergers raising potential media plurality concerns. At present, this role is performed by the Secretary of State but, as has been noted in a previous post by Andreas Stephan, the ability of politicians to undertake this role impartially has recently been called into question. In particular, the close contact between a NewsCorp lobbyist and a Special Adviser to (the then Culture Secretary) Jeremy Hunt during the NewsCorp/BSkyB assessment, as exposed by the Leveson Inquiry, highlights the sheer extent to which politicians can be subjected to undue influence in the media sector. Re-allocating the decision-making role to Ofcom could overcome this problem, but it could equally amount to substituting one problem for another. Read the rest of this entry »


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