This is a course on identifying and resolving antitrust problems that arise in mergers and acquisitions. Using case studies of contemporary transactions ranging from simple negotiated acquisitions to hard-fought contested takeovers, we will examine anticipating antitrust problems and identifying possible defenses and solutions at the early stage of a deal when information is typically scare, performing more detailed analyses when more information becomes available, organizing the prosecution/defense of a transaction, navigating the DOJ/FTC merger review process, anticipating and structuring consent decree settlements, litigating merger antitrust cases, and negotiating provisions in merger agreements to allocate antitrust risk between the parties. The case studies will include such recent high-profile transactions as Hertz/Avis Budget/Dollar Thrifty, Halliburton/Baker Hughes, Staples/Office Depot, American Airlines/USAir, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Anheuser-Busch InBev/Grupo Modelo, Anthem/Cigna, and Nielsen/Arbitron. The course will be sufficiently self-contained for students interested in business combinations who have not taken an antitrust course. There will be several short graded assignments throughout the course and a three-hour, open book, take-home examination at the end of the course.
By the end of the course, a diligent student should be able to do the following:
- Perform a preliminary merger analysis, spotting at a high-level both potential substantive issues and possible remedies, in common transaction scenarios involving public companies given only publicly available facts.
- Describe the merger review process from the filing of an HSR premerger notification report through a preliminary investigation, second request investigation, and final arguments to the heads of the investigating agency. If the agency concludes that the deal has antitrust problems, be able to describe the process for negotiating consent decree relief.
- Understand the major theories of antitrust harm that apply to mergers and acquisitions and the major types of defenses available to the merging parties and be able to apply them to an arbitrary transaction.
- Structure a merger antitrust challenge (as the investigating staff) and a merger antitrust defense (as defense counsel) before the decision-making officials at the DOJ and FTC.
- Anticipate and structure a consent decree remedy minimally satisfactory to the DOJ and FTC in light of their expressed concerns about a transaction.
- Describe the basic considerations and timing implications of litigating a merger antitrust case, the standards for granting preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, what the government and the merging parties each must show to prevail, and the allocation of the burden of proof (both persuasion and going forward) between the two sides, and the strategic and tactical implications of these factors to the prosecution and defense of a merger antitrust case in court.
- Describe the legal and strategic significance of the antitrust-relation provisions in an Agreement and Plan of Merger (e.g., reps and warranties on antitrust-related consents and approvals, merger control and litigation conditions precedents, general efforts covenants, conduct of business covenants, merger control filing covenants, investigation and litigation cooperation covenants, shift-shifting covenants (including covenants to divest businesses or assets if necessary to avoid an agency challenge or settle a litigation), antitrust reverse termination fees, purchase price adjustments for divestitures, damages for breach of antitrust-related covenants, ticking fees, “take or pay” provisions, termination provisions).