Thomson Reuters EU Antitrust Pact Challenged by Morningstar

Thomson Reuters Corp.’s settlement with European Union antitrust regulators faces a legal challenge from investment information company Morningstar Inc.

Morningstar asked the EU’s second-highest court to overturn the European Commission’s 2012 decision to settle an investigation into Thomson Reuters’s securities identification codes, the company said in a statement.

The commission should “reconsider its decision to exclude real-time data feed providers -- such as Morningstar -- from the scope of the remedy,” Margaret Kirch Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company, said in an e-mail on Feb. 11. It made the filing at the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg on Feb. 4.

This challenge may undermine the EU’s increasing use of settlements to extract pledges from companies and allow regulators to close a probe without fining a company or finding any wrongdoing. The EU is currently negotiating similar accords with Google Inc., OAO Gazprom, Samsung Electronics Co. and Visa Europe Ltd.

EU regulators opened an investigation into the Thomson Reuters codes in 2009, saying customers may potentially be locked in to working with the company because replacing the codes required a long and costly procedure to rewrite or reconfigure software applications.

Regulators accepted the company’s 2012 promise to create a new license for the so-called Reuters Instrument Codes, saying customers would have greater possibility “to switch to competing providers of consolidated real-time data-feeds.”

Driving Seat

Yvonne Diaz, a spokeswoman for Thomson Reuters in London, declined to comment because the company hasn’t seen any details of the appeal. Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission in Brussels, declined to comment for the same reason.

Since the EU is in the driving seat of a deal to end a case, customers and rivals may have little scope to influence promises by a company to resolve antitrust concerns, said Yves Botteman, a lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Brussels.

The appeal “may be testing new territories,” Botteman said in an e-mail. “What rights, if any, should customers and competitors enjoy in commitment proceedings? Is the allegedly dominant company bound to address all antitrust concerns?”

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with Thomson Reuters in selling financial and legal information and trading systems.

The case is T-76/14 Morningstar v Commission.

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