There has been a lot of speculation and even objections to the proposed merger between United States Sugar Corporation and Imperial Sugar Company due to the expected impact on the price of sugar. A lawsuit, filed by Biden administration officials, would block the proposed sugar merger on antitrust grounds.
If the lawsuit goes through, it could have an effect on prices for consumers. The administration contends that allowing corporations to merge in this way will be anti-competitive in relation to small American cooperatives who lack capital or political power to compete with their larger competitors.
Consumer prices would likely increase. The proposed merger would create a company with the largest land-holdings of any corporation in the United States. This is important because more sugar can be grown on their land, thus leading to an increase in prices for consumers.
A lawsuit could also result in job loss across the nation if this merger goes through. The longer it takes to finalize the merger, the more temporary workers may be fired. Labor unions may also suffer from losses as a result of this merger because it could lead to fewer jobs being created within that industry.
Protests were held throughout the South in the aftermath of this proposed merger. The Sugar Growers Cooperative of Louisiana organized protests against this merger, which included picketing businesses that dealt with these companies. Other protests were held in Florida and Texas.
The attorneys at Adams and Reese, LLP are committed to providing exceptional service with each engagement. From focusing on specific practice areas to having a proactive approach to anticipating client needs, our lawyers strive to exceed client expectations. Adams and Reese, LLP is an AV-rated law firm with offices in Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; Brentwood, Tennessee; Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Istanbul-Turkey; London-U.K. and Washington, DC. To learn more about Adams and Reese, LLP, please visit http://www.adamsandreese.com.
According to the ABA Journal, the United States has a history of ‘robber barons’ who have led anti-trust lawsuits in the past against large corporations in an effort to prevent monopolies from forming and to maintain a competitive marketplace for consumers.
The Department of Justice led by Attorney General Merrick Garland argued that that acquisition would raise prices at a time when global supply chains are already under pressure.
In a monumental December 2016 purchase, one of the world’s largest suppliers of TV content, 21st Century Fox, announced they would be buying the remaining shares of Sky PLC that it does not already own. This has left many wondering if this acquisition will actually be good for consumers considering sky prices are already high enough.
The Department of Justice led by Attorney General Merrick Garland argued that that acquisition would raise prices at a time when global supply chains are already under pressure. The department also believes an acquisition could result in fewer ‘creative’ companies in the market due to increased competition with Disney and NBC Universal following Disney’s $71 billion dollar purchase of Fox assets last year.
The Department of Justice was able to gain support from Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as well as a host of other lawmakers, who worry that the combination of two massive media conglomerates would have a significant effect on American consumers – particularly those who can least afford it – and will move the industry toward a more centralized control by a handful of corporations.
Aside from moving out these competitors, there were already reasons why DOJ opposed this acquisition from the start. The first one of which is vertical integration. Vertical integration means that the company is both an upstream supplier and a downstream buyer. This acquisition would make 21st Century Fox a horizontal merger, which is different because it does not combine two companies at the same stage of production. Horizontal mergers are much harder to oppose because they do not eliminate a competitor from the market.
Companies typically undergo negotiations to create similar contracts with distributors and other intermediaries as part of their M&A plans. In this case, Disney has been in talks with Comcast about how to arrange its own streaming service as well as those from other content providers such as HBO, Discovery Inc., and AMC Networks Inc. Disney’s plans were always to create their own service through its purchase of Fox assets.
The acquisition means that 21st Century Fox would no longer be vertically integrated. This also means that Disney will no longer be able to force Comcast into taking other actions, like purchasing Fox or even creating their own streaming service.
In the past, DOJ used to actively oppose vertical integration, but under the most recent leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions it has been ordered for companies to have a plan already in place for how it will manage its businesses if a merger is approved. In this case, both Disney and Comcast have been told they need a plan before they can move forward with a deal with the Department of Justice.
President Joe Biden’s first year in the White House has been marked by taking aggressive steps to combat corporate consolidation, including in the tech and airline industries.
Vice President Biden’s first year in the White House has been marked by taking aggressive steps to combat corporate consolidation, including in the tech and airline industries. Here are some of his accomplishments.
In September, Joe Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum instructing antitrust officials to scrutinize “potential anticompetitive behavior” by patents trolls. The memo announced that the Patent and Trademark Office would conduct a study on the “economic impact of patent assertion entities.”
In October, Biden held a summit to discuss how to address the growing threat posed by so-called patent trolls, who claim ownership of an idea or product – often internet technology – without ever creating it themselves. Biden also called for reforms in the financial system to prevent abuse by offshore tax havens.
Biden signed new legislation governing airline mergers in November, including provisions that will prevent airlines from using labor agreements to delay union elections. He also signed legislation extending tax credits for new airline hires and requiring major airlines to disclose their labor policies.
Biden’s antitrust actions also targeted tech firms. In September, the government challenged a bid by Qualcomm for rival NXP Semiconductors. Biden defended the challenge’s timing, saying it was “in no way personal or political” against the San Diego company’s largest shareholder, Singapore-based Broadcom. Biden also pushed to break up tech giants like Apple and Google — by cracking down on anticompetitive behavior that gives them an unfair advantage over smaller tech firms.
Biden was an early supporter of net neutrality. In a 2007 op-ed, he wrote that he has “been a strong supporter of net neutrality since its inception,” and that it is the “right thing to do.” In July 2010, Biden wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in support of strong open internet rules.
In May 2014, Biden introduced legislation calling for a ban on broadband providers from blocking any legal content online, slowing down Internet speeds for certain content, or negotiating paid deals with content providers for faster streaming. The bill would also reinstate net neutrality rules. At the time, Biden said: “An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Domestic Sugar Alliance filed a lawsuit against Francois-Henry De Wendel and its subsidiaries, accusing them of paying below cost for sugar in violation of federal law. The suit says higher prices would result in more jobs, lower food costs, and greater purchasing power for American families.
Biden’s office is also suing to stop the company from buying available sugar supplies during such a time when prices are high and there’s not enough available to meet demand.
The lawsuit comes just days after President Trump announced he would crack down on illegal immigration at US borders by building barriers where needed – which may slow trade through Mexico further increasing the price for consumers.
The suit says the company has breached the federal trade laws through its “unfair and unreasonable” practices.
The suit claims that in addition to paying below market prices, De Wendel “took advantage of a lack of U.S. sugar supplies by purchasing a substantial amount of sugar outside the United States.”
The USDA also claims that De Wendel’s subsidiaries have paid US-based growers less than the guaranteed price they have negotiated with USDA. In some cases, these companies have been getting less than half their contracts from U.S.-based producers due to a lack of supply, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also contends that the sugar company “committed a multitude of unfair and unlawful acts,” including refusing to take other forms of redress, such as a price increase or penalties.
In addition to paying less for sugar, De Wendel’s subsidiaries have been accused of buying from “illegal sources” in addition to local legal sugar here in the United States. In one case, producer Liberty Sugar bought four times its contract quota from a foreign buyer. In another case, the company purchased illegal three-year-old molasses at rates well below market prices to supply its milling operations despite knowing that it was illegal, according to court papers filed by USDA.
The USDA’s decision to file this lawsuit was approved by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, after consulting with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative. The lawsuit will be heard by Judge Louise Flanagan in the United States Court of International Trade in New York City.
“Our economy relies on a stable, competitive sugar industry that ensures our nation’s food supply is secure now and into the future,” said Perdue in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “To protect American consumers, businesses and jobs during this time of sugar scarcity, we are taking these steps to ensure fair pricing for all refiners who play by the rules.