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Northrop Grumman Corporation and Orbital ATK, Inc.; Analysis 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 methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the 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 July 5, 2018.

ADDRESSES:

Interested parties may file a comment online or on paper, by following the instructions in the Request for Comment part of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. Write: “In the Matter of Northrop Grumman Corporation and Orbital ATK, Inc., File No. 181 0005” on your comment, and file your comment online at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/​ftc/​northropgrumman by following the instructions on the web-based form. If you prefer to file your comment on paper, write “In the Matter of Northrop Grumman Corporation and Orbital ATK, Inc., File No. 181 0005” on your comment and on the envelope, and mail your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite CC-5610 (Annex D), Washington, DC 20580, or deliver your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Constitution Center, 400 7th Street SW, 5th Floor, Suite 5610 (Annex D), Washington, DC 20024.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

James Southworth (202-326-2822), Bureau of Competition, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to Section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and FTC Rule 2.34, 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 June 5, 2018), on the World Wide Web, at https://www.ftc.gov/​news-events/​commission-actions.

You can file a comment online or on paper. For the Commission to consider your comment, we must receive it on or before July 5, 2018. Write “In the Matter of Northrop Grumman Corporation and Orbital ATK, Inc., File No. 181 0005” on your comment. Your comment—including your name and your state—will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including, to the extent practicable, on the public Commission website, at https://www.ftc.gov/​policy/​public-comments.

Postal mail addressed to the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security screening. As a result, we encourage you to submit your comments online. To make sure that the Commission considers your online comment, you must file it at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/​ftc/​northropgrumman by following the instructions on the web-based form. If this Notice appears at http://www.regulations.gov/​#!home, you also may file a comment through that website.

If you prefer to file your comment on paper, write “In the Matter of Northrop Grumman Corporation and Orbital ATK, Inc., File No. 181 0005” on your comment and on the envelope, and mail your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite CC-5610 (Annex D), Washington, DC 20580, or deliver your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Constitution Center, 400 7th Street SW, 5th Floor, Suite 5610 (Annex D), Washington, DC 20024. If possible, submit your paper comment to the Commission by courier or overnight service.

Because your comment will be placed on the publicly accessible FTC website at https://www.ftc.gov, you are solely responsible for making sure that your comment does not include any sensitive or confidential information. In particular, your comment should not include any sensitive personal information, such as your or anyone else's Social Security number; date of birth; driver's license number or other state identification number, or foreign country equivalent; passport number; financial account number; or credit or debit card number. You are also solely responsible for making sure that your comment does not include any sensitive health information, such as medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, your comment should not include any “trade secret or any commercial or financial information which . . . is privileged or confidential”—as provided by Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and FTC Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2)—including in particular competitively sensitive information such as costs, sales statistics, inventories, formulas, patterns, devices, manufacturing processes, or customer names.

Comments containing material for which confidential treatment is requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c). In particular, the written request for confidential treatment that accompanies the comment must include the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. See FTC Rule 4.9(c). Your comment will be kept confidential only if the General Counsel grants your request in accordance with the law and the public interest. Once your comment has been posted on the public FTC website—as legally required by FTC Rule 4.9(b)—we cannot redact or remove your comment from the FTC website, unless you submit a confidentiality request that meets the requirements for such treatment under FTC Rule 4.9(c), and the General Counsel grants that request.

Visit the FTC website at http://www.ftc.gov to read this Notice and the news release describing it. The FTC Act and other laws that 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 on or before July 5, 2018. For information on the Commission's privacy policy, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, see https://www.ftc.gov/​site-information/​privacy-policy.

Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

I. Introduction

The Federal Trade Commission (“Commission”) has accepted an Agreement Containing Consent Order (“Consent Agreement”) designed to remedy the anticompetitive effects resulting from Northrop Grumman Corporation's (“Northrop”) proposed acquisition of Orbital ATK, Inc. (“Orbital ATK”). Under the terms of the Consent Agreement, Northrop would be Start Printed Page 27777required to (1) continue to act as a non-discriminatory merchant supplier of Orbital ATK's solid rocket motors (“SRMs”) rather than favor its now-vertically integrated missile system business, and (2) protect SRM and missile system competitors' competitively sensitive information from improper use or disclosure.

The Consent Agreement has been placed on the public record for thirty days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Given that the acquisition could impact a current ongoing missile system competition, the Commission issued the accompanying Decision and Order (“Order”) as final prior to seeking public comment, as provided in Section 2.34(c) of the Commission's Rules. This will allow the Commission to enforce the Order if there are any violations of its provisions during the public comment period. 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 Consent Agreement or modify the accompanying Order.

Pursuant to an Agreement and Plan of Merger dated September 17, 2017, Northrop agreed to acquire 100 percent of the issued and outstanding voting securities of Orbital ATK for approximately $7.8 billion (the “Acquisition”). The Commission's Complaint alleges that the Acquisition is in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45, and that the acquisition, if consummated, would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18, and Section 5 of the FTC Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45, by lessening the competition in the United States market for missile systems. The Acquisition would provide Northrop with the ability and incentive to withhold its SRMs from competing missile system prime contractors, or only offer its SRMs at disadvantageous terms, thereby raising rivals' costs or otherwise undermining their ability to compete on future missile system bids. The Consent Agreement will remedy the alleged violations by prohibiting Northrop from discriminating against competing missile prime customers in supplying SRMs.

II. The Parties

Northrop is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Falls Church, Virginia. Northrop is a global aerospace and defense company that acts as a prime contractor or preferred supplier on many high-priority programs for the United States Department of Defense (“DOD”) and other United States Government agencies. Northrop is one of only a few companies capable of acting as a prime contractor for tactical, missile defense, and strategic missile systems for DOD [the United States Government]. From 1997 to 2013, Northrop was the prime contractor responsible for maintaining, sustaining, and modernizing the Minuteman III strategic missile system. Northrop is currently competing to develop the nation's next intercontinental ballistic missile system, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. Northrop has also successfully competed for United States Government research and development contracts for tactical missiles and missile defense interceptors.

Orbital ATK is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Dulles, Virginia. The company is a prime contractor and merchant supplier of space, defense, and aviation-related systems to customers around the world. Orbital ATK is the nation's leading producer of SRMs for both defense and commercial applications. For defense programs, Orbital ATK produces strategic-grade SRMs for the Trident II D-5 and Minuteman III and the Missile Defense Agency's Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptor. In addition, Orbital ATK is a leading producer of SRMs for air-, sea- and land-based tactical missiles and missile defense interceptors. Orbital ATK supplies these SRMs to prime contractors for use in their missile systems.

III. The Products and Structure of the Markets

Northrop is one of only four companies capable of supplying missile systems to the United States Government. Missile systems provide essential national defense capabilities for the United States Government. The United States Armed Forces employ multiple types of missile systems, including short-range tactical missiles, longer-range strategic missiles, and missile defense interceptors designed to defeat ballistic missile threats. Each type of missile system purchased by DOD has unique capabilities and is designed specifically to perform its given mission(s).

Orbital ATK is one of only two viable suppliers of SRMs for U.S. Government missile systems and the dominant supplier of large SRMs used for long-range strategic missiles. SRMs are used to propel tactical, missile defense, and strategic missiles to their intended targets. SRMs are used for virtually all missile systems purchased by the United States Government because they offer numerous advantages over all other existing propulsion technologies.

The relevant geographic market in which to analyze the effects of the proposed transaction is the United States. The missile systems that are the subject of the Complaint are solely purchased by the United States Government, which also typically funds their development. National security considerations and other factors limit DOD's ability to procure its missile systems from foreign suppliers. Federal law, national security, and other considerations similarly drive missile system prime contractors to procure SRMs from domestic suppliers.

IV. Entry

Entry into the relevant markets would not be timely, likely, or sufficient in magnitude, character, and scope to deter or counteract the anticompetitive effects of the Acquisition. There are significant barriers to entry into the development, manufacture, and sale of both SRMs and missile systems in the United States. The relevant products are high technology, defense-specific products that require specialized expertise and facilities to develop, test, and manufacture. It would be extremely difficult and costly for a new entrant to establish the technological expertise and specialized facilities necessary to compete successfully in either of these markets.

V. Effects of the Acquisition

Following the Acquisition, Northrop, will be one of only two viable suppliers of SRMs for U.S. Government missile systems. The choice of SRM can have a significant impact on the final determination of a missile system prime competition because the propulsion system is a critical element of the overall missile design. SRMs comprise a large portion of the cost of the integrated missile and their performance affects the range, accuracy, and payload capacity of the missile. Absent the protections of the Consent Agreement, Northrop would have the ability to disadvantage competitors for future missile prime contracts by denying or limiting their access to Northrop's SRM products and technologies, which would lessen the ability of Northrop's missile system competitors to compete successfully for a given missile system prime contract. The Acquisition would also give Northrop access, through the former Orbital ATK SRM business, to the proprietary information that rival missile prime contractors must share with its SRM vendor. Similarly, the Acquisition creates a risk that the Start Printed Page 27778proprietary, competitively sensitive information of a rival SRM supplier supporting Northrop's missile system business could be transferred to Northrop's vertically integrated SRM business.

VI. The Consent Agreement

The Consent Agreement remedies the acquisition's likely anticompetitive effects by requiring, whenever Northrop competes for a missile system prime contract, that Northrop must make its SRM products and related services available on a non-discriminatory basis to all other third-party competing prime contractors that wish to purchase them. The non-discrimination prohibitions of the Consent Agreement are comprehensive and apply to any potential discriminatory conduct affecting price, schedule, quality, data, personnel, investment, technology, innovation, design, or risk.

The Consent Agreement requires Northrop to establish firewalls to ensure that Northrop does not transfer or use any proprietary information that it receives from competing missile prime contractors or SRM suppliers in a manner that harms competition. These firewall provisions require that Northrop maintain separate firewalled teams to support offers of SRMs to different third-party missile prime contractors and to maintain these firewalled teams separate from the team supporting Northrop's missile prime contractor activities. The firewall provisions also prohibit Northrop's missile business from sharing proprietary information it may receive from third-party SRM suppliers with Northrop's SRM business.

The Consent Agreement also provides that the DOD's Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment shall appoint a compliance officer to oversee Northrop's compliance with the Order. The compliance officer will have all the necessary investigative powers to perform his or her duties, including the right to interview respondent's personnel, inspect respondent's facilities, and require respondents to provide documents, data, and other information. The compliance officer has the authority to retain third-party advisors, at the expense of Northrop, as appropriate to perform his or her duties. Access to these extensive resources will ensure that the compliance officer is fully capable of overseeing the implementation of, and compliance with, the Order.

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.

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By direction of the Commission.

Janice Frankle,

Acting Secretary.

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[FR Doc. 2018-12750 Filed 6-13-18; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-P