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DOJ and FTC Reinvigorating Merger Enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Jonathan Kanter and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan today announced a review of merger guidelines. The agencies are soliciting public input on ways to update federal merger guidelines to better detect and prevent illegal, anticompetitive deals.

“This important step by Chair Khan and AAG Kanter to reinvigorate merger enforcement will strengthen the antitrust agencies’ ability to successfully challenge harmful and anticompetitive mergers by establishing a clear set of guidelines that will signal to courts a standard by which the agencies will review mergers,” said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen. “This is absolutely necessary and long overdue. The historic merger filings of last year demonstrate that the out-of-control corporate consolidation we have seen over the last decade is only increasing and the FTC and DOJ need to use every tool at their disposal to stop this crisis that is a threat to workers, consumers, small businesses, innovation, and our democracy.”

Competition is key to the success of our economy, ensuring that Americans have the freedom to choose among different suppliers and employers, the joint press release from the FTC and DOJ noted. Competition spurs businesses to improve products and services, develop new ones, and reduce prices. Mergers, on the other hand, can reduce choices for consumers, workers, and small businesses – leaving them increasingly dependent on dominant firms that have the power to dictate the terms of deals.

“The merger guidelines have for decades held back enforcement by relying on false economic assumptions about the impacts of mergers and a very narrow view of what should be considered when reviewing potential mergers or acquisitions,” said Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen. “This update gives us the opportunity to bring merger review into the modern era. We know that most mergers do not provide the benefits promised, often hurt workers, and help to consolidate data that is used to track our every move online. By refocusing on these important issues and deemphasizing speculative impacts on markets, the new guidelines could significantly improve merger enforcement that has largely failed in recent decades.”

Comments can be submitted to regulations.gov and must be received no later than March 21.