Facebook jumps to $1T valuation as judge dismisses antitrust suits from FTC, states (updated)

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Seeking Alpha 28 June, 2021 - 02:01pm 37 views

FTC complaint against Facebook struck down in court

NBC News 28 June, 2021 - 02:57pm

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust complaint against the social media giant, calling it "legally insufficient."

"The FTC has failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element of all of its Section 2 claims -- namely, that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for Personal Social Networking (PSN) Services," Judge James E. Boasberg wrote in his ruling.

Facebook had filed to have the suits dismissed in March, arguing that the FTC had failed to adequately define a market where Facebook had monopoly power.

Boasberg appeared to agree with that argument. But while he dismissed the complaint, he did not dismiss the case entirely, inviting the FTC to amend its complaint and bring the case back to court.

The judge also told the FTC that it was "on firmer ground" scrutinizing Facebook's acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp than it was in pursuing Facebook's refusal to allow for interoperability, which would allow users to take their data to other platforms.

The FTC, now headed by Biden-appointee Lina Khan, is now likely to return with a new lawsuit that focuses more directly on Facebook's acquisition history. Khan has built her reputation on scrutinizing Big Tech.

Facebook stock jumped nearly 5 percent after the ruling, sending its valuation above $1 trillion.

Facebook Wins Dismissal of U.S., States’ Monopoly Lawsuits

Yahoo Finance 28 June, 2021 - 02:23pm

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington on Monday granted Facebook’s request to dismiss the complaints, filed last year by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general led by New York’s Letitia James.

The judge said in the opinion that the FTC failed to meet the burden for establishing that Facebook has a monopoly in social networking. He said the agency could refile the complaint within 30 days.

“Although the court does not agree with all of Facebook’s contentions here, it ultimately concurs that the agency’s complaint is legally insufficient and must therefore be dismissed,” Boasberg wrote.

Facebook shares rose as much as 4.4% in New York following the ruling.

With the ruling, Facebook has escaped -- at least for now -- the most significant regulatory threat to its business to emerge out of the wider crackdown on U.S. technology giants.

The decision delivers a blow to the FTC and the states, which claimed Facebook violated antitrust laws by buying photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp in order to cut off emerging competitive threats and protect its monopoly.

It puts new emphasis on antitrust legislation advanced by the Judiciary Committee last week that would make it easier for enforcers to challenge anticompetitive conduct by the biggest tech platforms.

Boasberg’s decision to toss the Facebook complaints shows the hurdles U.S. antitrust enforcers face in trying to take on the internet giants. Officials on their own can’t break up companies or impose other remedies, but instead must persuade judges to take action. The process can take years.

The Facebook lawsuits were filed in December as part of a widening crackdown on America’s tech giants. The cases followed a Justice Department complaint against Alphabet Inc. for allegedly monopolizing internet search, and the findings of a House investigation that accused tech companies of abusing their dominance. Lawmakers have since proposed a pile of bills that would cast a broad regulatory net over the companies.

The Facebook lawsuits centered on the 2012 acquisition of Instagram and the 2014 takeover of WhatsApp. Officials say Facebook made the deals because it saw both companies as threats to its business. Rather than compete with its own products, Facebook followed Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s mantra: “it is better to buy than compete,” according to the FTC complaint.

Facebook offered $1 billion for Instagram when it had only 25 million users and no revenue, but had already started to capture the market for mobile photo-sharing. Zuckerberg said the threat from Instagram was “really scary,” according to the FTC complaint. The company paid $19 billion for WhatsApp because it saw messaging apps as another danger to its business. A Facebook executive said the apps “might be the biggest threat we’ve ever faced as a company,” the FTC complaint said.

Facebook attacked the complaints on several grounds. One of its key arguments was that the FTC investigated both acquisitions when they were announced and allowed both deals to proceed. While antitrust enforcers can challenge completed mergers, Facebook argued the FTC’s case was unprecedented and the agency never explained why its prior decisions approving the purchases were mistaken. The government simply wants a “do-over,” Facebook said.

The company also had argued that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in April that curtailed the FTC’s authority to recover money for defrauded consumers required that the complaint be dismissed.

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Facebook Inc. 20-cv-3590, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

(Updates with decision in third paragraph)

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Facebook won a legal victory Monday after a U.S. district court tossed out the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust complaint against the social-media company, saying the agency had failed to make a case that Facebook held a monopoly. Facebook’s stock popped on the news to all-time highs, closing up 4.2% to 355.64 per share for the […]

Evercore ISI's Mark Mahaney says the investment is large enough to obscure the company's overall profitability.

A federal district judge on Monday dismissed the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust complaint alleging Facebook engaged in anticompetitive practices.Driving the news: The judge described the FTC's complaint as "legally insufficient" in making the case that Facebook has monopoly power in the personal social network market.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeDetails: The FTC suit, filed in December, asked the court to unwind Faceboo

The FTC's antitrust case against Facebook was dismissed on Monday.

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A federal court dismissed the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, handing the social media giant a victory as it battles claims of unfair monopolistic behavior.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House is working on an antitrust executive order that aims to push government agencies to consider how their decisions will impact competition in an industry, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The order goes after corporate monopolies across a broad swath of industries ranging from banking to airlines, one of the sources said. The drive comes as House lawmakers are moving forward with sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at restraining the power of Big Tech companies such as Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc and staving off corporate consolidation.

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The new progressive chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission is already riling Republicans by pushing to expand the limits and powers of the agency significantly.

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Judge dismisses FTC's antitrust complaint against Facebook

Axios 28 June, 2021 - 02:20pm

A federal district judge on Monday dismissed the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust complaint alleging Facebook engaged in anticompetitive practices.

Driving the news: The judge described the FTC's complaint as "legally insufficient" in making the case that Facebook has monopoly power in the personal social network market.

Details: The FTC suit, filed in December, asked the court to unwind Facebook's acquisitions of Instagram and Whatsapp, among other remedies.

What's next: The order notes the FTC can refile its complaint.

Separately, the same judge dismissed a parallel antitrust lawsuit brought by a coalition of state attorneys general.

Map showing much hotter than normal conditions across the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia on June 27. Credit: Weathermodels.com

The extraordinary heat wave that's stifling the Pacific Northwest will peak in many areas on Monday, with Seattle forecast to smash its all-time high-temperature record by about 7°F, an almost unheard-of margin for an all-time record, which is usually eclipsed by fractions of a degree.

Why it matters: After two days of oppressive heat and little relief at night, the extreme weather event, boosted by global warming, is moving into a more dangerous phase.

Why it matters: Despite a record level of regulatory scrutiny, Facebook's value continues to soar. The company has experienced enormous growth over the past year, as more people turned to its services to communicate and shop during the pandemic.

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Court dismisses FTC, state antitrust cases against Facebook

The Hill 28 June, 2021 - 02:09pm

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will have an opportunity to file an amended complaint, but the challenge from a coalition of state attorneys general led by New York's Letitia James (D) has been dismissed entirely.

The regulatory agency had argued that Facebook stifled competition by acquiring nascent competitors. The case called for the unwinding of WhatsApp and Instagram.

The court also determined Monday that the state AG case was filed too late. The lawsuit, filed last year, had challenged Facebook's acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which were completed in 2014 and 2012 respectively. 

The state officials' argument that Facebook blocking interoperability for certain apps violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act was similarly dismissed because the actions took place more than five years ago.

"Although the Court does not agree with all of Defendant’s contentions here, it ultimately concurs with Facebook’s bottomline conclusion: none of the States’ claims may go forward," the decision reads.

The Hill has reached out to Facebook and the FTC for comment. The social media giant hit a market cap of $1 trillion for the first time Monday shortly after the rulings.

Monday's decision is likely to add fuel to efforts to reform antitrust law. Some lawmakers have criticized existing statutes, especially the focus on consumer welfare in current rules, as overly narrow.

The House Judiciary Committee voted last week to advance six bills aimed at giving more resources and authority to regulators as well as expanding the kind of behavior that is considered anti-competitive. 

“Congress needs to provide additional tools and resources to our antitrust enforcers to go after Big Tech companies engaging in anticompetitive conduct.”

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Judge dismisses FTC and state antitrust complaints against Facebook

CNBC 28 June, 2021 - 02:02pm

A federal court on Monday dismissed the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust complaint against Facebook, as well as a parallel case brought by 48 state attorneys general, dealing a major setback for the agency's complaint that could have resulted in Facebook divesting Instagram and WhatsApp.

Shares of Facebook rose more than 4% on Monday following the rulings, sending the social media company's market capitalization above $1 trillion for the first time.

The FTC sued the company last December, alongside attorneys general from 48 states, arguing that Facebook engaged engaged in a systematic strategy to eliminate threats to its monopoly, including the 2012 and 2014 acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, respectively, which the FTC previously cleared. 

However, the court ruled Monday said the FTC failed to prove its main contention, and the cornerstone of the case: That Facebook holds monopoly power in the U.S. personal social networking market.

"Although the Court does not agree with all of Facebook's contentions here, it ultimately concurs that the agency's Complaint is legally insufficient and must therefore be dismissed," reads the filing from U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. "The FTC has failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element of all of its Section 2 claims -- namely, that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for Personal Social Networking (PSN) Services."

The court found the FTC did not provide enough detailed data to prove Facebook has market power in the loosely defined market for personal social networking services.

"The Complaint is undoubtedly light on specific factual allegations regarding consumer-switching preferences," the court wrote. "These allegations -- which do not even provide an estimated actual figure or range for Facebook's market share at any point over the past ten years -- ultimately fall short of plausibly establishing that Facebook holds market power."

Elsewhere, the filing notes that the FTC's complaint seemed to assume that the court would agree Facebook is a monopoly.

"The FTC's Complaint says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had, and still has, in a properly defined antitrust product market," the filing reads. "It is almost as if the agency expects the Court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist."

The ruling is not necessarily the end of the case. The court acknowledged that the FTC may be able to cure the weaknesses in its argument so left open the possibility that it could file an amended complaint and continue the litigation.

The court also disagreed with Facebook's argument that the FTC does not have the power to attack the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which took place in 2012 and 2014. On the contrary, it ruled that the FTC can still seek divestiture of these acquisitions -- but only if it succeeds in its legal arguments about Facebook's monopoly power.

However, the court completely dismissed the parallel case from the state attorneys general, saying that the long delay between the acquisitions and the 2020 case filing were unprecedented on a state level, and that the states' argument about "Facebook preventing interoperability with competing apps fails to state a claim under current antitrust law, as there is nothing unlawful about having such a policy."

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