The Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and the National Association of Attorneys General today released a "Protocol" for how federal and state agencies will conduct joint and coordinated merger investigations.
The Protocol reduces to writing the approach that FTC and DOJ staff and the states have been using in recent years. It sets forth a general framework for the conduct of joint federal/state merger investigations with the goals of maximizing cooperation between the enforcement agencies and minimizing the burden on private parties. The Protocol improves the process of joint investigations, underscores the importance of confidentiality, and encourages communication between federal and state officials.
The Protocol reaffirms the commitment of the "participating agencies" to protect confidential information from improper disclosure. The first section lists specific steps for maintaining the confidential status of the information shared. The second section of the Protocol details the procedures under which the FTC and DOJ will provide the state Attorneys General with certain types of sensitive information. Guidelines for conducting a joint investigation are detailed in the third section, and the fourth section emphasizes the importance of the agencies collaborating closely with respect to the settlement process. The final section of the Protocol addresses how the agencies should coordinate the release of information to the news media.
William J. Baer, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, noted that the FTC has enjoyed a productive working relationship with the states and believes that consumers have benefited from this partnership. The publication of the Protocol should further that goal, he said.
The Commission vote to approve the Protocol was 3-0, with Commissioners Mary L. Azcuenaga and Orson Swindle not participating.
Copies of the Protocol are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-3128; TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. 859910)