In recent investigations of hospital mergers, the merging parties often make the argument that the acquired firm is flailing, if not outright failing. Thus, the argument goes, the transaction is necessary to keep the acquired hospital in operation. But courts have set stringent requirements for meeting the failing firm defense, and as set out in the Horizontal Merger Guidelines §11, a company can assert what is known as a “failing firm” defense only if
From time to time, the Commission revises its rules of practice in the interest of fairness, flexibility and efficiency—in other words, to improve the process it relies on for its investigations, studies and adjudicative proceedings. For instance, in 2009, the Commission made comprehensive changes that overhauled the Commission’s Part 3 adjudicative proceedings with the main goal of addressing concerns that they were too protracted.
Some will remember 1976 as the year of the nation’s bicentennial, but it was also the year that Congress gave the antitrust agencies an important tool to prevent harmful mergers before the harm occurs and before the assets and operations of the merging parties are joined in a way that precludes effective relief after-the-fact.
Recently, I appeared on a panel that discussed the Commission’s recent Section 5 cases.
There is still time to submit public comments on the FTC’s proposal to study the effectiveness of its remedial orders in merger cases. Fifteen years have passed since the Bureau’s previous Divestiture Study, which resulted in a number of important findings that caused the Commission to refine its approach and improve its orders.
Although FTC staff often rely on voluntary requests for information in the early stages of an investigation, the use of official subpoena and civil investigative demands authorized by the Commission is essential to uncover potential law violations, and when necessary, to pursue a law enforcement action in court to remedy any harm to competition.