It’s easy to be blasé about electric power: Flip a switch and the lights come on. Plug in your phone and it recharges. Maybe you have a vague sense that behind the plug is a vast infrastructure of lines and junction boxes, all leading back to far-away power plants that generate electricity. But new technologies and growing interest in ‘green’ energy sources are prompting policymakers to rethink public utility regulation – and suddenly, what happens behind that plug could get a whole lot more interesting.
Today, the Commission (with the help of our friends at the Justice Department) filed a proposed settlement in federal court to settle charges that three funds managed by Third Point violated the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act by failing to make the necessary premerger notification filings when they acquired shares of Yahoo! Inc.
Today the FTC and DOJ released the FY 2014 Hart-Scott-Rodino Annual Report, which details the agencies’ merger review and enforcement program for October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. As the only complete source of data on federal merger enforcement, the HSR Report is worth a close read, but here’s a little preview of our top four most interesting observations, trends, and takeaways from this year’s report.
One of the key functions of the Bureau of Competition is to analyze mergers. Obtaining information through Second Requests is an essential aspect of our review process for proposed acquisitions. Even though the FTC and DOJ on average issue a Second Request in less than 5 percent of filed transactions, for the few that do require more extensive review, we have long recognized the burden they impose. The challenge is to find a balance between our need for information to determine whether there is a potential law violation and avoiding unnecessary costs for businesses subject to review.
Every day, the PNO receives many inquiries for interpretations of the Hart-Scott-Rodino statute and rules. Recently, several questions have related to transactions involving rental property, which implicate 16 C.F.R.
The ability to appoint a monitor is an important tool in building a successful merger remedy. The boilerplate-style language FTC uses in merger orders when appointing a monitor belies the unique and varied roles that monitors play in assuring that the order maintains or restores competition. Here’s some background and insight into some of the ways the FTC uses monitors.
In a variety of industries, the FTC advocates for policies that promote competition. Why? Because studies show competition works, for our citizens and for our economy. Competition typically improves consumer welfare through lower prices, expanded output, better service and more innovation.
Is more information about prices always a good thing for consumers and competition? Too much transparency can harm competition in any market, including in health care markets.
I am pleased to announce that Ben Gris has been promoted to Assistant Director of the Mergers II Division. Ben joined Mergers II in 2006 from private practice, and became a Deputy Assistant Director of the shop in 2011.
Everywhere these days, folks are talking about big data. (Apparently, even machines are talking amongst themselves using big data in an ecosystem called the Internet of Things.) Last week, Chairwoman Ramirez spoke about the privacy implications of the big data revolution, and specifically, about the FTC’s law enforcement efforts to protect consumer privacy from the risks associated with the collection and use of consumer data.
FTC staff has doggedly tracked down information about competition in the pet medications industry for the past several years. Why? Because it’s a large and growing consumer market. With 65 percent of American households owning a pet, and retail sales of prescription pet medications expected to top $10 billion by 2018, it is clearly a market where competition could benefit consumers. Most consumers pay for pet meds out-of-pocket and do not have pet health insurance that covers these expenses.
These days, the sharing economy is all around us. One person might use her smartphone to get an Uber ride to a dinner arranged through Feastly. Another might hire a Taskrabbit to clean up his garden for spring and order custom pots for his flowers from a seller on Etsy. But do these new services come with risks to competition and consumers? And how should regulations governing traditional suppliers be tailored to apply to them?
Consumers frequently contact the Bureau of Competition to alert us that the cost of a prescription drug suddenly spiked up, and ask if the FTC can take antitrust action to bring the price back down. The answer in a nutshell is that it depends on the reason for the price change.
A fundamental principle of competition is that consumers – not regulation – should determine what they buy and how they buy it. Consumers may benefit from the ability to buy cars directly from manufacturers – whether they are shopping for luxury cars or economy vehicles. The same competition principles should apply in either case.
UPDATE: June 6, 2016 – This blog is no longer current. See our new blog, "Wiring your HSR filing fee just got easier," for current information on paying the HSR filing fee.
According to the Bureau’s Statement on Negotiating Merger Remedies, the goal of a structural merger remedy is to maintain or restore competition in the markets affected by the merger while allowing the parties to proceed with those parts of the merger that do not raise competitive concerns. Usually, this approach results in a Commission order to divest key assets or capabilities to a buyer that will become a new competitor in the market and that can maintain the competitive status quo.
Spring has come again, and with it, flocks of antitrust lawyers and economists have returned to Washington, DC for the ABA’s annual Antirust Law Spring Meeting. I have once again prepared the Bureau of Competition’s report on its activities and accomplishments over the past year.
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.