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VENABLE ADDS EXPERIENCED ANTITRUST AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ATTORNEY ERIC BERMAN IN WASHINGTON

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Eric Berman

Has handled numerous claims before FTC on advertising and other consumer protection issues; represents major companies during merger reviews before FTC and DOJ and advises on competition-related business matters

Venable LLP announced that experienced antitrust attorney Eric Berman, who has represented clients in major merger reviews and litigation as well as advertising and consumer protection claims before the Federal Trade Commission, has joined the firm as counsel in Washington, DC.

Mr. Berman arrives from Williams Mullen, where he served as a partner and chair of that firm’s Antitrust & Trade Regulation practice.

Mr. Berman has handled all areas of antitrust issues, including representing companies before the FTC and the DOJ’s Antitrust Division in merger reviews and counseling companies and associations on antitrust compliance issues.

Eric Berman

Eric Berman

He also focuses on consumer protection matters governed by the FTC, including working with companies in the home building and construction products, health, weight loss, dietary supplement and nutrition sectors. Mr. Berman has served as lead counsel for companies facing FTC advertising investigations; advised businesses on advertising issues such as claim interpretation, substantiation, and comparative advertising; and helped companies ensure compliance with FTC trade regulation rules, state laws and Better Business Bureau NAD and NARB decisions.

Among his notable matters, Mr. Berman has represented:

  • A national building/home materials seller in an FTC action involving insulation performance claims;
  • A marketer of nutrition products and dietary supplements before the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices;
  • A global mining company in the antitrust clearance of its proposed $19 billion merger with major competitor;
  • The largest inland barge company in the U.S. in the antitrust approval of its acquisition of rival towing assets;
  • A leading worldwide supplier of drilling products during the merger review of its $11 billion combination with a major oilfield services company;
  • A branded consumer goods company in its $3.7 billion purchase of a rival frozen pizza business;
  • A major consumer electronics company in price-fixing litigation brought by private plaintiffs and several state attorneys general;
  • A global packaging company in its $860 million spin-off and merger with a competing consumer and office products company;
  • A leading replacement window and door manufacturer during an FTC investigation of performance claims in the industry; and
  • A UK-based conglomerate in a lawsuit filed by FTC’s Northwest Regional office involving debt collection activities.

At Venable, Mr. Berman joins one of the country’s leading consumer protection practices, with particular strength in advertising and marketing law. The practice is headed by Jeffrey Knowles, one of the nation’s leading advertising attorneys. Under Mr. Knowles’ leadership, the firm’s Advertising group has won the coveted Chambers USA Award for Excellence for two consecutive years; was named by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” as its Advertising Law Firm of the Year in 2011-2012 and 2014; and is ranked in Tier 1 by Legal 500 in 2014.

Mr. Berman also adds antitrust strength to Venable’s already-strong bench of competition lawyers. The antitrust group is led by practice chair Lisa Jose Fales and is at the forefront of the healthcare/antitrust intersection, often representing healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in high-stakes “reverse payment” litigation. Ms. Fales is recognized among the nation’s leading healthcare antitrust lawyers.

“Our consumer, advertising and antitrust group are all going to actively compete for Eric Berman’s time – his strengths in all three related areas of practice makes him a terrific addition to the firm,” Ms. Fales said. “He is highly experienced in handling complex and contentious law enforcement investigations of corporate transactions, is a skilled litigator and also a veteran advisor to companies facing a gauntlet of regulatory or enforcement claims.”

“We are delighted to have Eric join us,” added Mr. Knowles. “His FTC experience and his energy will serve our clients well and will further cement Venable’s position as a top-tier advertising and marketing practice. Eric’s counsel will help ensure that our clients continue to receive the strongest representation on critical competition and consumer protection matters.”

Mr. Berman commented, “Venable has long been known for its elite advertising and marketing practice – the firm represents many of the nation’s leading merchants and branded consumer companies on sensitive matters, including best practices and staying out of the regulators’ crosshairs. Venable has also developed a stellar competition platform in recent years, advising on litigation and transactional issues for businesses. Given the diverse nature of my work for clients, I am very pleased to be joining a firm with such a sophisticated and well-rounded foundation for antitrust and consumer protection.”

Mr. Berman received his J.D. from the George Washington University Law School and his B.S. from Cornell University.
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Oil set for steady gains as economies shake off pandemic blues – Reuters poll

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Oil set for steady gains as economies shake off pandemic blues - Reuters poll 1

By Sumita Layek and Bharat Gautam

(Reuters) – Oil prices will stage a steady recovery this year as vaccines reach more people and speed an economic revival, with further impetus coming from stimulus and output discipline by top crude producers, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

The survey of 55 participants forecast Brent crude would average $59.07 per barrel in 2021, up from last month’s $54.47 forecast.

Brent has averaged around $58.80 so far this year.

“Travel and leisure activity look set to catch up to buoyant manufacturing activity due to the mix of stimulus, confidence, vaccines, and more targeted pandemic measures,” said Norbert Ruecker of Julius Baer.

“Against these demand dynamics, the supply side is unlikely to catch up on time, leaving the oil market in tightening mode for months to come.”

Of the 41 respondents who participated in both the February and January polls, 32 raised their forecasts.

Most analysts said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) may ease current output curbs when they meet on March 4, but would still agree to maintain supply discipline.

“With OPEC+ endeavouring to keep global oil production below demand, inventories should continue falling this year and allow prices to rise further,” said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Oil demand was seen growing by 5-7 million barrels per day in 2021, as per the poll.

However, experts said any deterioration in the COVID-19 situation and the possible lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran could hold back oil’s recovery.

The poll forecast U.S. crude to average $55.93 per barrel in 2021 versus January’s $51.42 consensus.

Analysts expect U.S. production to rise moderately this year, although new measures from U.S. President Joe Biden to tame the oil sector could curb output in the long run.

“A structural shift away from fossil fuels” may prevent oil from returning to the highs of previous decades, said Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Cailin Birch.

(Reporting by Sumita Layek and Bharat Govind Gautam in Bengaluru; Editing by Arpan Varghese, Noah Browning and Barbara Lewis)

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Japan’s jobless rate seen up in January due to COVID-19 emergency measures – Reuters poll

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Japan's jobless rate seen up in January due to COVID-19 emergency measures - Reuters poll 2

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s jobless rate is expected to have edged up in January as service industry businesses suffered renewed restrictions on movement to fight spread of the coronavirus in some areas, including Tokyo, a Reuters poll of economists showed on Friday.

While industrial production activity picked up in Japan, emergency curbs rolled out last month such as asking restaurants to close early and suspending the national travel campaign hurt the jobs market, analysts said.

The nation’s unemployment rate likely rose 3.0% in January, up from 2.9% in December, the poll of 15 economists found.

The jobs-to-applicants ratio, a gauge of the availability of jobs, was seen at 1.06 in January, unchanged from December, but stayed near September’s seven-year low of 1.03, the poll showed.

“As the impact from the coronavirus pandemic prolongs, it is hard for firms, especially the service sector, to expect their business profits to improve,” said Yusuke Shimoda, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.

“So, their willingness to hire employees appear to be subdued and it is difficult to see the jobs market recovering soon.”

Some analysts also said the government’s steps to support employment and existing labour shortages will likely prevent the jobless rate from worsening sharply.

The government will announce the labour market data at 8:30 a.m. Japan time on Tuesday (2330 GMT Monday).

Analysts expect the economy to contract in the current quarter due to the emergency measures to counter the spread of the disease.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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China’s economy could grow 8-9% this year from low base in 2020 – central bank adviser

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China's economy could grow 8-9% this year from low base in 2020 - central bank adviser 3

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s gross domestic product (GDP) could expand 8-9% in 2021 as it continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Liu Shijin, a policy adviser to the People’s Bank of China, said on Friday.

This speed of recovery would not mean China has returned to a “high-growth” period, said Liu, as it would be from a low base in 2020, when China’s economy grew 2.3%.

Analysts from HSBC this week forecast that China would grow 8.5% this year, leading the global economic recovery from the pandemic.

If 2020 and 2021’s average GDP growth is around 5%, this would be a “not bad” outcome, said Liu, speaking at an online conference.

China is set to release a government work report on March 5 which typically includes a GDP growth target for the year.

Last year’s report did not include one due to uncertainties caused by the coronavirus. Reuters previously reported that 2021’s report will also not set a target.

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Muyu Xu; Editing by Sam Holmes and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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