Competition Matters

Examining health care competition: time for the next check-up

Take a deep breath and hold it. Release. Now open your mouth and say, “aaahhh.”

Just as it is prudent to have your health examined regularly by professionals, we believe it is wise to periodically examine the competitive dynamics in the ever-evolving health care marketplace, a critical sector of the American economy.

HSR threshold adjustments and reportability – 2015 edition

When Congress passed the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, it created minimum dollar thresholds to limit the burden of premerger reporting. In 2000, it amended the HSR statute to require the annual adjustment of these thresholds based on the change in gross national product. As a result, reportability under the Act changes from year to year as the statutory thresholds adjust. The PNO fields many questions about the upcoming adjustments to the HSR thresholds from parties whose transactions may take place around the time of the revisions. 

Unflattering resemblance

As discussed in a previous blog post, trade association members are subject to the same antitrust rules of the road as other companies or individuals who happen to be competitors. That means no price fixing, bid rigging, customer allocation or market division allowed, because these types of agreements are so plainly harmful that courts have condemned them as per se violations of the antitrust laws.

How to avoid common HSR filing mistakes with Item 4(c) and 4(d) documents

The PNO handles Hart-Scott-Rodino Premerger Notification Filings for well over a thousand transactions each year. When you submit an HSR Form with all of the required information, the PNO can quickly review the filing, and if necessary, forward it to the investigative staff who will focus on determining whether the acquisition presents competitive issues that warrant further review.

Ten Competition Happenings for 2014

This is the week for lists, so here’s one for competition watchers looking for something to read in between watching football games and reading other lists.  In addition to the many speeches by the Chairwoman and Commissioners on a wide variety of topics, here are some key FTC competition documents worth a second look from the year that was:

PNO closed on December 26

Per an executive order by President Obama, executive branch non-Postal Service employees are excused from duty on Friday, Dec. 26, 2014. The Premerger Notification Office will not be open to accept HSR filings on that date. Please note that this will not change HSR waiting periods. If you have a filing with a waiting period scheduled to end on Dec. 26, 2014, that waiting period will not be affected.

Information exchange: be reasonable

Each day companies seek out market information to gain insights on how to compete more effectively.  When companies compete more effectively, that can be good for consumers, making more and better goods and services available to them at lower prices. But when competing companies seek market intelligence by exchanging price or other commercially sensitive information, that may facilitate collusion or otherwise harm competition and consumers in violation of the antitrust laws.

Turning a page at the PNO

Every day, the Premerger Notification Office processes premerger notification filings for transactions reportable under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act. The numbers are daunting: over 1,400 transactions requiring more than 2,800 filings in an average year. Not only does the PNO keep up with this volume, its staff of HSR specialists screens each filing for HSR compliance and identifies which transactions require further review.

FTC Milestones: Weighing in on weight loss cases

“No need to be fat. No need to diet or go through unpleasant exercise.”
“Your thin friends can tell you the right way to fight fat.”

“Men avoided me. I was too fat.”

Sounds like a lot of the bogus diet promotions the FTC has gone to court to shut down. But there are two things different about this false advertising case.

First, it went to the Supreme Court. And second, the year was 1931.

December tidings

I am pleased to announce the addition of two highly experienced antitrust litigators to the Bureau of Competition.  In a happy coincidence of timing, David Laing and Tara Reinhart will both be joining the Bureau from private practice on December 15. They will report directly to Deputy Director Steve Weissman and to me. Tara and David will handle both federal court and administrative litigation. They will often be involved in cases early on—before we’ve reached a decision on our recommendation to the Commission—to help determine whether litigation is appropriate.

Living in the moment

As the FTC celebrates its Centennial, we are thankful for all of the very talented folks who chose to spend part or all of their career with us protecting consumers and promoting competition. You can visit FTC Moments to read, hear, or watch as present and former FTC’ers share special moments from their time with the agency. And if you only have a moment, here are our highlights. If you are an FTC alum, we’d love to have your moment added to the collection!

FTC Milestones: Making the case for reform of public utility holding company laws

From its earliest days, the Commission has used its authority under Section 6 of the FTC Act to gain a deep understanding of competitive conditions in a variety of industries. In its first two decades alone, the FTC produced more than 100 studies or responses to general inquiries, most often pursuant to Congressional resolutions or Presidential orders. Information and insight gained in these inquiries generated policy recommendations to tackle the pressing needs of the nation in the face of changing market conditions.

FTC Milestones: Shared beginnings in the Circle Cilk case

In celebration of the FTC’s 100th anniversary, we’ve been examining the leaves on our family tree. The FTC’s founding is often associated with turn-of-the-century trust busting, but a closer look – including a study of the very first case published in Volume 1 of Federal Trade Commission Decisions – proves that the intertwined roots of consumer protection and competition run deep. That’s one of the themes of the FTC@100 Symposium on Friday, November 7, 2014.

FTC@100: A special week

This is a special week for the Federal Trade Commission. On Thursday evening, November 6, along with the Antitrust Section of the ABA, the FTC will host our 100th Anniversary Dinner, a public event for FTC staff, alumni, friends, and supporters. Information about the event and tickets can be found on the event’s registration page.

From the antitrust mailbag: manufacturer-imposed requirements

Here’s another common question we receive from retailers: A manufacturer is placing restrictions on the way I price its products. I think this is anticompetitive. Is it a violation of the antitrust laws for a manufacturer to tell me what price to charge?

In most situations, a manufacturer’s requirements imposed on retailers are legal, so long as they are limited to the sale of that supplier’s products. Such requirements are usually legal because they may make that manufacturer’s products more desirable as compared to the products of competing manufacturers.

The Clayton Act: 100 years and counting

One hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Clayton Act, just weeks after signing the Federal Trade Commission Act. Together, these statutes gave the federal government new tools to deal with the growing threat of the trusts: a bipartisan five-member Commission to police against “unfair methods of competition,” and a new law designed to stop certain business combinations and conduct before they caused widespread harm.

Promoting healthy competition in health IT markets

The FTC has been a consistent proponent of competition in health care markets, utilizing our full range of study, advocacy, and enforcement tools. We are equally proud of our track record in promoting innovation and responding to new technological developments throughout our 100-year history.

Reference pricing is not a substitute for competition in health care

In recent years, the U.S. health care sector has seen numerous innovations in the way care is organized and reimbursed (e.g., accountable care organizations, bundled payments, etc.), all with the goal of reducing expenditures and improving quality. One innovation that has received a great deal of attention recently is reference pricing.

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