As the COVID-19 pandemic made cocktail hours and canapés distant memories, the American Bar Association quickly pivoted to make 2020 the year of the Virtual Antitrust Spring Meeting.
Dominating the agenda was how antitrust authorities and companies are adapting, evolving and coping with the economic fallout from the coronavirus — some with greater success than others.
In the US, agency updates were coupled with talk of an expected rise in merging parties claiming a failing firm defense, while the intersection of data privacy and antitrust was also a hot topic.
Via podcasts, videocasts and livestreams, officials also noted that despite work-from-home orders and city lockdowns, antitrust enforcers are not taking a siesta. The DoJ’s antitrust chief Makan Delrahim touted the agency’s success in targeting procurement cartels while the Texas attorney general said a 50-state coalition investigating Google’s advertising business is moving forward despite the unprecedented conditions.
EU regulators weighed in on ongoing probes of tech giants like Amazon and Facebook — companies that were already under the microscope before the outbreak. Yet, as a result of brick and mortar closures, digital platforms have taken on even
greater significance as primary suppliers in the modern economy.
European officials also spoke of two key EC initiatives: ‘comfort letters’ to agricultural suppliers to enable cooperation in fields usually prohibited by competition rules and a new temporary framework for the clearance of state aid.
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