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Showing 5 Publications by Fred McChesney
Amicus Brief "'Capricious' is defined as 'given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.' That is just the word to describe the FCC’s decision in its 2014 Order to reverse a quarter century of agency practice by a vote of 3-to-2..."
“‘Capricious’ is defined as ‘given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.’ That is just the word to describe the FCC’s decision in its 2014 Order to reverse a quarter century of agency practice by a vote of 3-to-2 and suddenly declare unlawful scores of JSAs between local television broadcast stations, many of which were originally approved by the FCC and have been in place for a decade or longer. The FCC’s action was not only capricious, but also contrary to law for two fundamental reasons.
First, the 2014 Order extends the FCC’s outdated ‘duopoly’ rule to JSAs that have never before been subject to it, many of which were blessed by the agency, without first determining whether that rule is still in the public interest. The ‘duopoly’ rule — first adopted in 1964 during the age of black-and-white TV — prohibits one entity from owning FCC licenses to two or more TV stations in the same local market unless there are at least eight independently owned stations in that market…The FCC’s 2014 Order makes a mockery of this congressional directive. In it, the Commission announced that, instead of completing its statutorily-mandated 2010 Quadrennial Review of its local ownership rules, it would roll that review into a new 2014 Quadrennial Review, while retaining its duopoly rule pending completion of that review because it had ‘tentatively’ concluded that it was still necessary. This Court should not accept this regulatory legerdemain. The 1996 Act does not allow the FCC to retain its duopoly rule in its current form without making the statutorily-required determination that it is still necessary. A ‘tentative’ conclusion that does not take into account the significant changes both in competition policy and in the market for video programming that have occurred since the current rule was first adopted in 1999 is not an acceptable substitute.
Second, having illegally retained the outdated duopoly rule, the 2014 Order then dramatically expands its scope by amending the FCC’s local ownership attribution rules to make the rule applicable to JSAs, which had never before been subject to it. The Commission thereby suddenly declares unlawful JSAs in scores of local markets, many of which have been operating for a decade or longer without any harm to competition. Even more remarkably, it does so despite the fact that both the DOJ and the FCC itself had previously reviewed many of these JSAs and concluded that they were not likely to lessen competition. In doing so, the FCC also fails to examine the empirical evidence accumulated over the nearly two decades some of these JSAs have been operating. That evidence shows that many of these JSAs have substantially reduced the costs of operating TV stations and improved the quality of their programming without causing any harm to competition, thereby serving the public interest…”
Amicus Brief "...One of the core guiding principles of modern antitrust law is the focus on maximizing the welfare of consumers. This guiding principle should lead to the conclusion that the antitrust laws may be violated when a transaction reduces consumer welfare but not when consumer welfare is increased..."
“…One of the core guiding principles of modern antitrust law is the focus on maximizing the welfare of consumers. This guiding principle should lead to the conclusion that the antitrust laws may be violated when a transaction reduces consumer welfare but not when consumer welfare is increased. The consumer welfare focus of the antitrust laws is a product of the same fundamental wisdom that underlies the Hippocratic Oath: primum non nocere, first, do no harm.
The decision of the Panel violates this principle and thus will harm consumers in the Ninth Circuit, and, insofar as it is followed in other Circuits, across the country. More specifically, the Panel takes several positions on proof of efficiencies that are contrary to the Horizontal Merger Guidelines and decisions in other Circuits. Chief among these positions are that “[i]t is not enough to show that the merger would allow St. Luke’s to better serve patients” and that “[a]t most, the district court concluded that St. Luke’s might provide better service to patients after the merger.” These positions are inconsistent with modern antitrust jurisprudence and economics, which treat improvements to consumer welfare as the very aim of competition and the antitrust laws.
If permitted to stand, the Panel’s decision will signal to market participants that the efficiencies defense is essentially unavailable in the Ninth Circuit, especially if those efficiencies go towards improving quality. Companies contemplating a merger designed to make each party more efficient will be unable to rely on an efficiencies defense and will therefore abandon transactions that promote consumer welfare lest they fall victim to the sort of reasoning employed by the panel in this case. Consequently, it is foreseeable that it will be a long time, if ever, that another panel of this Court will be able to revisit this issue that is critical to correct antitrust enforcement.
Compounding this problem is the fact that the Panel’s opinion fills something of a vacuum in efficiencies jurisprudence. Although efficiencies are recognized as an essential part of merger analysis, very little is written about them in most judicial decisions. The Panel’s decision will thus not only preempt potentially beneficial mergers but also the development of sound efficiencies analysis under Section 7.
The amici respectfully submit that the decision of the Panel is contrary to modern thinking on efficiencies in antitrust analysis and therefore urge the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case en banc in order to correct the defects in the Panel’s decision and to provide clearer guidance and analysis on the efficiencies defense.”
Amicus Brief Unlike in a pre-merger investigation, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) did not need to rely on indirect evidence related to market structure to predict the competitive effect of the conduct challenged in this case.
Unlike in a pre-merger investigation, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) did not need to rely on indirect evidence related to market structure to predict the competitive effect of the conduct challenged in this case. McWane’s Full Support Program, which gave rise to the Commission’s exclusive dealing claim, was fully operational—and had terminated—prior to the proceedings below. Complaint Counsel thus had access to data on actual market effects.
But Complaint Counsel did not base its case on such effects, some of which suggested an absence of anticompetitive harm. Instead, Complaint Counsel theorized that McWane’s exclusive dealing could have anticompetitively “raised rivals’ costs” by holding them below minimum efficient scale, and it relied entirely on a self-serving statement by McWane’s chief rival to establish what constitutes such scale in the industry at issue. In addition, Complaint Counsel failed to establish the extent of market foreclosure actually occasioned by McWane’s Full Support Program, did not assess the degree to which the program’s significant exceptions mitigated its anticompetitive potential, and virtually ignored a compelling procompetitive rationale for McWane’s exclusive dealing. In short, Complaint Counsel presented only weak and incomplete indirect evidence in an attempt to prove anticompetitive harm from an exclusive dealing arrangement that had produced actual effects tending to disprove such harm. Sustaining a liability judgment based on so thin a reed would substantially ease the government’s burden of proof in exclusive dealing cases.
Exclusive dealing liability should not be so easy to establish. Economics has taught that although exclusive dealing may sometimes occasion anticompetitive
harm, several prerequisites must be in place before such harm can occur. Moreover, exclusive dealing can achieve a number of procompetitive benefits and
is quite common in highly competitive markets. The published empirical evidence suggests that most instances of exclusive dealing are procompetitive rather than
anticompetitive. Antitrust tribunals should therefore take care not to impose liability too easily.
Supreme Court precedents, reflecting economic learning on exclusive dealing, have evolved to make liability more difficult to establish. Whereas exclusive
dealing was originally condemned almost per se, Standard Oil of California v. United States, 337 U.S. 293 (1949) (hereinafter “Standard Stations”), the Supreme
Court eventually instructed that a reviewing court should make a fuller inquiry into the competitive effect of the challenged exclusive dealing activity. See Tampa
Electric Co. v. Nashville Coal Co., 365 U.S. 320, 329 (1961). In In re Beltone Electronics, 100 F.T.C. 68 (1982), the FTC followed Tampa Electric’s instruction
and embraced an economically informed method of analyzing exclusive dealing.
The decision on appeal departs from Beltone—which the FTC never even cited—by imposing liability for exclusive dealing without an adequate showing of likely competitive harm. If allowed to stand, the judgment below could condemn or chill a wide range of beneficial exclusive dealing arrangements. We therefore urge reversal to avoid creating new and unwelcome antitrust enforcement risks.”
Amicus Brief On November 23, 1998, the Attorneys General of 46 states signed an agreement settling allegations that the largest four tobacco manufacturers defrauded the states of Medicaid expenses.
On November 23, 1998, the Attorneys General of 46 states signed an agreement settling allegations that the largest four tobacco manufacturers defrauded the states of Medicaid expenses. The Master Settlement Agreement obligates the Majors and other manufacturers who opt in to the MSA to make annual payments totaling $206 billion. Under the MSA‘s terms, PMs‘ payments are calculated on the basis of their current national market shares. The annual payments are then allocated to the settling states. The MSA also prohibits PMs from various tobacco-related lobbying and advertising activity. MSA §§ III(b)-(i); III(m)-(p). The MSA raises the costs of cigarettes by approximately 35 cents per pack.
Structuring damage payments in this way would have created a significant competitive advantage for NPMs, which would have been able to undercut PMs‘ resulting inflated prices. The MSA contemplates this consequence by including several provisions that provide incentives for NPMs to join the settlement, thereby mitigating the competitive consequences of the PMs‘ annual payments to the states. These NPMs are often smaller companies which would stand to gain substantial market share by not joining the MSA. The MSA‘s incentives are accordingly generous.
First, new participants in the settlement which subject themselves to the tax increase within 90 days make zero MSA payments at all on sales at or below a benchmark level, defined as the higher of their 1998 sales or 125 percent of their 1997 sales. MSA § IX(i). To put the magnitude of this subsidy in perspective, a small manufacturer with sales of $100,000 per month would be entitled to a $1.5 million annual tax subsidy. See Jeremy Bulow, Director, Bureau of Econ., Fed. Trade Comm‘n, The State Tobacco Set- tlements and Antitrust (June 25, 2007).
Amicus Brief "EchoStar’s appeal presents a stark choice on the proper method for dealing with a repeat patent infringer against whom the District Court has issued an initial injunction followed by a contempt decree, which between them have yet to provide TiVo with an ounce of effective relief against EchoStar’s unlawful behavior..."
“EchoStar’s appeal presents a stark choice on the proper method for dealing with a repeat patent infringer against whom the District Court has issued an initial injunction followed by a contempt decree, which between them have yet to provide TiVo with an ounce of effective relief against EchoStar’s unlawful behavior. EchoStar takes the position that the entire convoluted six-year history of this dispute should be ignored in passing on the validity of its purported present work- around of TiVo’s ‘389 patent. In so doing, its apparent objective is to win a war of attrition against TiVo. The first part of that strategy is to use its current modified DVR for as long as it can tie up TiVo through tactics of litigation delay that allow it to reap all the collateral gains from patent infringement. Once stopped with the first work-around, it may well repeat the same cycle of delay a second time.
For EchoStar, this approach it is a no-lose strategy. EchoStar wins big if it can persuade a court that its work-around comes close to, but does not cross, the infringement line. EchoStar also wins if it loses a new infringement suit so long as it needs only pay damages that amount to a small fraction of the economic gains it derives from following its unlawful strategy. Then it can start the cycle anew with a second work-around, and, if need be, a third. Unless prompt and decisive measures are taken, EchoStar will profit handsomely from its own wrongdoing…”