FTC Lawsuit for Microsoft-Activision Deal Was Prompted by EU Talks: Report

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on December 8, 2022, that it would be filing a lawsuit in an attempt to block Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard in a $69 billion deal that the agency alleged would allow the Windows maker to suppress its competitors in the gaming space.

According to an updated report shared by Bloomberg today, the FTC decided to do this because it learned that EU officials had begun talking with Microsoft about potential remedies, an implication that the deal had a real chance of approval—something that the U.S. apparently doesn’t want to see happen.

The FTC wants to “get out in front of the Europeans in an effort to shape the narrative,” suggested Barry Nigro, who served as the No. 2 antitrust official at the Justice Department during the Trump administration but now heads Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP, an antitrust practice.

From a Bloomberg report:

The US Federal Trade Commission filed its lawsuit to block Microsoft Corp.’s $69 billion takeover of gaming company Activision Blizzard Inc. in December partly to get ahead of its European counterparts and dissuade them from accepting a settlement allowing the deal, according to people familiar with the investigations.

The FTC filed a complaint challenging the merger on Dec. 8, hours after a call between US and European Union officials about their respective probes, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were confidential. The EU officials indicated on the call they intended to begin talks with Microsoft about potential remedies, the person said.

That prompted the FTC to file its case the same day to send a strong signal to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and her staff, the people said, even though technically the commission wouldn’t entertain remedy proposals from the companies until later in the process.

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Tsing Mui
News poster at The FPS Review.

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