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Reed Elsevier NV, Reed Elsevier PLC, Reed Elsevier Group plc, Reed Elsevier Inc., ChoicePoint Inc., ChoicePoint Services Inc., and ChoicePoint Government Services LLC; Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission.

ACTION:

Proposed Consent Agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before October 29, 2008.

ADDRESSES:

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments. Comments should refer to “Reed Elsevier ChoicePoint, File No. 081 0133,” to facilitate the organization of comments. A comment filed in paper form should include this reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room 135-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Comments containing confidential material must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with Commission Rule 4.9(c). 16 CFR 4.9(c) (2005).[1] The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. Comments that do not contain any nonpublic information may instead be filed in electronic form by following the instructions on the web-based form at (http://secure.commentworks.com/​ftc-ChoicePoint). To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on that web-based form.

The Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”) and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments that it receives, whether filed in paper or electronic form. Comments received will be available to the public on the FTC website, to the extent practicable, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm). As a matter of discretion, the Commission makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC website. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC’s privacy policy, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​privacy.shtm)

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Brendan McNamara, FTC Bureau of Competition, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, (202) 326-3703.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and § 2.34 of the Commission Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for September 16, 2008), on the World Wide Web, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​2008/​09/​index.htm). A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. All comments Start Printed Page 63712should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before the date specified in the DATES section.

Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

I. Introduction

The Federal Trade Commission (“Commission”) has accepted, subject to final approval, an Agreement Containing Consent Orders (“Consent Agreement”) from Reed Elsevier NV, Reed Elsevier PLC, Reed Elsevier Group plc, and Reed Elsevier Inc. (collectively “Reed Elsevier”), and ChoicePoint Inc., ChoicePoint Services Inc., and ChoicePoint Government Services LLC (collectively “ChoicePoint”). The purpose of the proposed Consent Agreement is to remedy the anticompetitive effects that would otherwise result from Reed Elsevier’s proposed acquisition of ChoicePoint in the U.S. market for electronic public records services to law enforcement customers. Under the terms of the proposed Consent Agreement, Reed Elsevier and ChoicePoint are required to divest assets related to ChoicePoint’s AutoTrackXP and Consolidated Lead Evaluation and Reporting (“CLEAR”) electronic public records services.

The proposed Consent Agreement has been placed on the public record for thirty days to solicit comments from interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty days, the Commission will again review the proposed Consent Agreement and the comments received, and will decide whether it should withdraw from the proposed Consent Agreement, modify it, or make it final.

Pursuant to an Agreement and Plan of Merger dated February 20, 2008, Reed Elsevier has agreed to acquire ChoicePoint for approximately $4.1 billion (“Proposed Acquisition”). The Commission’s complaint alleges that the Proposed Acquisition, if consummated, would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 18, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 45, by lessening competition in the market for electronic public record services sold to law enforcement customers in the United States. The proposed Consent Agreement would remedy the alleged violations by replacing the competition that would be lost in this market as a result of the Proposed Acquisition.

II. The Parties

Reed Elsevier is a worldwide, leading information services provider and publisher with headquarters in London, Amsterdam, and New York. Reed Elsevier’s LexisNexis division provides information and risk management products and services to financial, business, law enforcement, and government customers. LexisNexis’s Risk and Information Analytics Group (“RIAG”) provides public records services and risk management and information analytics applications designed to assist customers in managing risk through fraud detection and prevention, identity authentication and verification, and background screening. Reed Elsevier reported revenues of 4.6 billion ($9.3 billion) for 2007.

ChoicePoint, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, is a leading provider of a variety of services used by customers to manage economic risk. ChoicePoint has four primary service groups: Insurance Services, Screening and Authentication Services, Business Services, and Marketing Services. For 2007, ChoicePoint reported revenues of $982 million.

III. Electronic Public Records Services to Law Enforcement Customers

Electronic public records encompasses a wide array of public and non-public records about individuals and businesses, including credit header data, criminal records, motor vehicle records, property records, and employment records. Electronic public records service providers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint compile these records, either by going directly to the source or by purchasing these records from third parties, and present them to end users via an online, web-based interface.

Law enforcement customers utilize electronic public records services as an investigatory tool in complex criminal investigations, such as combating terrorism, locating fugitives, and detecting illegal drug transactions. Unlike other consumers of electronic public records services, such as collections agencies who use these services for simple and discrete tasks such as locating an individual, law enforcement customers use electronic public records services to uncover previously unknown information and to generate leads in their investigations. Law enforcement customers, therefore, only work with electronic public records services providers with the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurate records available, as deficiencies in the underlying database could cost them a critical lead in an investigation. In addition to demanding the most complete database of electronic public records, law enforcement customers require that the provider have sophisticated search algorithms, sometimes called analytics, that identify and display non-obvious relationships between records.

The relevant geographic market in which to assess the impact of the Proposed Acquisition is the United States. Market participants indicate that successful participation in this market requires an established U.S. sales and support presence. As a practical matter, there are no firms serving non-U.S. customers that a law enforcement customer located in the United States could turn to as an alternative.

The market for electronic public records services to law enforcement customers is highly concentrated, with LexisNexis, primarily through its Accurint for Law Enforcement service, and ChoicePoint, with its AutoTrackXP service, accounting for over 80 percent of this approximately $60 million market. The Proposed Acquisition would significantly increase market concentration and eliminate substantial competition between the only two significant suppliers of electronic public records services to law enforcement customers in the United States.

The anticompetitive implications of such a dramatic increase in concentration are buttressed by evidence of intense head-to-head competition that would be lost with the Proposed Acquisition. Law enforcement customers have benefitted from the rivalry between LexisNexis and ChoicePoint in the form of lower prices, improved products, and better service and support. In addition, this fierce competition prompted ChoicePoint to introduce CLEAR—a new and advanced electronic public records service—designed specifically for law enforcement customers. Left unremedied, the Proposed Acquisition likely would cause anticompetitive harm by enabling LexisNexis to profit by unilaterally raising the prices of electronic public records services to law enforcement customers, as well as reducing its incentives to innovate and develop new services.

New entry or fringe expansion into the market for the sale of electronic public records services to law enforcement customers sufficient to deter or counteract the competitive effects of the proposed transaction is unlikely to occur within two years. Firms existing in the market would need to improve their software and Start Printed Page 63713underlying analytics substantially, increase the breadth and depth of their public records data, and overcome the resistance of many law enforcement customers to switch to a product that lacks the track record of effectively serving the needs of the law enforcement community in order to seriously contend for the customers that currently work with LexisNexis or ChoicePoint. As a result, new entry or fringe expansion sufficient to achieve a significant market impact within two years is unlikely.

IV. The Consent Agreement

The proposed Consent Agreement effectively remedies the Proposed Acquisition’s likely anticompetitive effects in the market for electronic public records services to law enforcement customers. The proposed Consent Agreement preserves competition by requiring the divestiture of assets related to ChoicePoint’s AutoTrackXP and CLEAR electronic public records services to Thomson Reuters Legal Inc. (“West”) within fifteen (15) days after the Proposed Acquisition is consummated.

The Commission is satisfied that West is a well-qualified acquirer of the AutoTrackXP and CLEAR assets. West has the resources, capabilities, experience, and reputation to ensure that it will be an effective competitor in the market for electronic public records services to law enforcement customers. West, headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota, is a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters, one of the world’s leading information service providers to the legal and business community. West already has a large and experienced sales force with existing relationships with many law enforcement agencies which use West’s legal research services. With the divested assets, West will be particularly well-situated to replicate ChoicePoint’s success and compete against the combined firm immediately after the Proposed Acquisition.

The proposed Consent Agreement contains several provisions designed to ensure that the divestiture of the AutoTrackXP and CLEAR assets to West is successful. First, the proposed Consent Agreement requires Reed Elsevier to provide various transitional services such as customer service, billing support, and database and network maintenance for up to two years to enable West to compete against Reed Elsevier immediately following the divestiture. Second, the proposed Consent Agreement ensures that Reed Elsevier will maintain the viability and marketability of the AutoTrackXP and CLEAR assets prior to the divestiture. Finally, the proposed Consent Agreement allows the Commission to appoint an Interim Monitor to ensure that Reed Elsevier fulfills all of its obligations related to the divestiture of the assets.

In order to ensure that the Commission remains informed about the status of the AutoTrackXP and CLEAR assets pending divestiture, and about the efforts being made to accomplish the divestiture, the proposed Consent Agreement requires Reed Elsevier to file periodic reports with the Commission until the divestiture is accomplished.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed Consent Agreement, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the proposed Consent Agreement or to modify its terms in any way.

By direction of the Commission.

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Donald S. Clark

Secretary

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Footnotes

1. The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission’s General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See Commission Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).

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[FR Doc. E8-25400 Filed 10-24-08: 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-S