Competition Matters


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.

How to avoid common HSR filing mistakes with attachments

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 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.

Keeper league, antitrust-style

As the calendar makes clear, summer is nearly over. For some, the transition to fall provokes thoughts of falling leaves, sharpened pencils, and warm beverages. For others, the end of summer means mulling over player rankings, sleepers, and early round strategies. While others have to work to create the perfect fantasy football roster, the Bureau already has an amazing team—as evidenced by some recent internal promotions.

Have a good plan for HSR compliance

Our recent civil penalty action involving Berkshire Hathaway’s failure to file the required Hart-Scott-Rodino notification is a reminder to investors to be alert to common filing mistakes. It is also a reminder that every investor—companies and individuals alike—needs to have a program in place to ensure compliance with HSR filing obligations.

How to avoid common HSR filing mistakes on affidavits and notice letters

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 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.

Putting the “mod” in order modification

Back in 1998, the must-have toy was a Furby, and if you were a parent with a kid of a certain age, you had to find one. In those days, Toys “R” Us was the nation’s largest toy retailer, and the company attracted antitrust attention when it announced that it would stop carrying toys made by any manufacturer that sold the same toys to discount club stores, such as Costco. That policy would have prevented nearby club stores from carrying the same Furby sold at Toys “R” Us (creating problems for that parent hoping to avoid a toddler meltdown).