U.S. finds no wrongdoing in Yasmin patent settlement

WASHINGTON, Tue Oct 2, 2012 – U.S. antitrust regulators found no wrongdoing in a deal made four years ago between German drugmaker Bayer AG and a division of Teva Pharmaceuticals o end patent litigation over the popular Yasmin birth control pill.

The Federal Trade Commission, in letters dated Sept. 26 but posted on the agency’s website this week, said it had reviewed the matter and said, “No further action is warranted by the commission at this time. Accordingly, the investigation has been closed.”

The FTC had been looking at the deal made by Bayer and Barr Laboratories, which was purchased by Teva, in 2008 to settle what was then a three-year fight over whether Barr infringed on Bayer’s “Yasmin” patent to make its own generic contraceptives.

Under the supply and licensing agreement, Barr paid Bayer a fixed percentage of its revenues for the contraceptive, Bayer said in its 2011 annual report.

The FTC had no comment beyond the letter. Spokespeople for Bayer and Teva did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The FTC has battled what it calls “pay for delay” settlements for years with mixed success. In the deals, brand-name drug companies typically sue generic firms for infringement and then settle, with the generic firm agreeing to delay entry into the market.

The FTC has also pushed for legislation to ban the deals.

Apple, Google, Intel fail to dismiss staff-poaching antitrust lawsuit

SAN JOSE, Calif., Thu Apr 19, 2012 – Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp. and four other technology companies were ordered by a judge to face an antitrust lawsuit claiming they illegally conspired not to poach each other’s employees.

District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose rejected the companies’ bid to dismiss claims brought under the federal Sherman antitrust law and California’s own antitrust law, the Cartwright Act.

In a decision on Wednesday night, Koh said the existence of “Do Not Cold Call” agreements among various defendants “supports the plausible inference that the agreements were negotiated, reached, and policed at the highest levels” of the companies.

“The fact that all six identical bilateral agreements were reached in secrecy among seven defendants in a span of two years suggests that these agreements resulted from collusion, and not from coincidence,” Koh added.

Other defendants in the case included Adobe Systems Inc., Intuit Inc., Walt Disney Co’s. Pixar unit and Lucasfilm Ltd. Koh dismissed a claim brought under California’s unfair competition law.

Lawyers for the defendants were not immediately available for comment.

The proposed class-action lawsuit was brought by five software engineers who accused the companies of conspiring to limit pay and job mobility by eliminating competition for labor, costing workers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Their claims are similar to those raised in 2010 by the Department of Justice when it settled antitrust probes against the companies.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the companies agreed not to take steps to restrict competition for workers, including setting limits on cold-calling and recruiting.

DOJ probes Del Monte sale to private equity investors for antitrust violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a probe into the $4 billion takeover of Del Monte Corp by private equity investors led by KKR and Co., according to court papers regarding an investor settlement over the transaction.

The department’s antitrust division “has been investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding the sale of Del Monte,” Stuart Grant, a lawyer for Del Monte shareholders, wrote in a Nov. 23 court filing. He said he has provided documents to the division and is cooperating with the investigation.

Calls to the Department of Justice, KKR and Del Monte were not immediately returned. Del Monte and KKR have said that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had issued subpoenas for documents relating to the buyout.

Grant in an interview said the Justice Department did not identify a specific target of its investigation. In court papers, he mentioned the probe as part of a discussion of antitrust claims against KKR.

Grant is seeking approval of an $89.4 million class-action settlement among shareholders, Del Monte and its financial adviser Barclays Capital, a unit of Barclays Plc.

Shareholders accused Barclays of having a conflict of interest because it also provided financing to the KKR group.

The settlement has drawn opposition from a Cleveland pipefitter pension fund, which argued that shareholders are being asked to give up antitrust claims that might be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

This fund has filed a federal lawsuit in California alleging that KKR and other private equity firms rigged bids to cap the price paid for Del Monte. It has until Dec. 8 to file an amended complaint after an earlier complaint was dismissed.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if they were looking for more information on what might be collusive bid-rigging,” said Craig Wildfang, a lawyer involved in the California lawsuit, referring to the Justice Department probe.

KKR has been involved in antitrust investigations before, having in 2006 and 2009 provided documents to the Justice Department as part of a government investigation into private equity firms, according to securities filings.

KKR and several other private equity firms are also defendants in a 2007 Massachusetts federal lawsuit. They are accused of colluding to lower the purchase prices of leveraged buyout targets such as software company SunGard Data Systems Inc and food service provider Aramark Corp.

Many lawyers in the California case are also involved in the Massachusetts case.A hearing to approve the Del Monte settlement is scheduled for Thursday in front of Judge Travis Laster in Wilmington.