FTC Hearings on Global Commerce and Innovation To Focus on How U.S. Businesses Compete in Marketplace

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consumer representatives, enforcement officials, academics, and executives of leading computer, health care, financial services, entertainment, defense, manufacturing, packaged goods and advertising industries to participate

The Federal Trade Commission today announced that its upcoming hearings on global competition and the boom in innovation-driven industries will prominently feature first-hand experiences of U.S. business leaders who are steering their companies through today's changing marketplace. Consumer representatives, former government enforcement officials and academics will also participate.

The Commission released today a list of hearing participants that includes executives from leading U.S. businesses in the computer, health care, financial services, entertainment, defense, manufacturing, packaged goods and advertising industries.

The hearings, which will open Oct. 12, were initiated by FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky to assess whether changing economic factors, such as globalization and the growth of high-tech industries, now require any adjustments either to loosen or to tighten aspects of current antitrust and consumer protection enforcement policies. The Commission has stated that the core provisions of antitrust and consumer protection law serve as effective tools against the exercise of unrestrained private economic power and the deception and abuse of consumers.

"As a law enforcement official, I believe it is essential to enforce current core requirements and, also, to evaluate whether all aspects of these policies are up-to-date in today's world," Pitofsky said. "If there are adjustments that need to be made to better protect consumers or to better ensure that antitrust does not unnecessarily impede the ability of U.S. businesses to compete globally, an important source of that information will be those individuals who confront competition questions every day. The hearings will prominently rely on the first-hand experiences of business and consumer protection leaders to suggest if there are ways we can improve U.S. competition laws."

U.S. business leaders participating in the hearings include executives from Hewlett-Packard Co., The Walt Disney Co., General Electric Co., 3M Corp., The Coca-Cola Company, Kodak, Texas Instruments, VISA, HCA Healthcare Corp., Lockheed/Martin Corp., IBM, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Hospital Association.

Consumer organizations that are participating, or have been invited to participate, in the hearings include the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union of the United States, the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the National Consumers League, and the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers will be featured on the hearing's opening day program, along with Pitofsky.

In addition, the hearings will include testimony from recognized leaders from state law enforcement agencies and the academic, legal and economics communities.

The hearings are open to the public and will take place at the FTC headquarters, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. The Commission will hear testimony several days a week, up until mid-December. The first days will provide a broad look at the issues of global competition and innovation. Subsequent days will be tightly focused on topics that will include, among others:

  • how automobile and textile companies are changing their supply and distribution setups to compete more successfully internationally (Oct. 18);

  • business strategies used by U.S. steel companies to compete more effectively (Oct. 19);

  • how pharmaceutical research is changing to provide more competition with brand name drugs (Oct. 23);

  • how universities and small businesses are collaborating to increase small businesses' ability to compete globally (Oct. 26 and Nov. 8);

  • the number of hospitals necessary to ensure low prices and quality care in a given community (Nov. 7 and Nov. 14);

  • whether issues relating to failing firms and distressed industries new approaches in antitrust enforcement (Nov. 14);

  • how new marketing technologies, such as interactive TV and personal communications systems (PCS), will affect consumers (Nov. 16 and Nov. 17);

  • how marketing in cyberspace will create new opportunities for consumers and new concerns regarding payment security and privacy (Nov. 20); and

  • network issues in computer, banking and telecommunications industries (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1).

Additional details on participants will be announced as available.

Following the conclusion of the hearings in mid-December, Pitofsky said a report on the findings and possible policy recommendations will be released.

NOTE: Currently planned schedule of topics and witnesses for these hearings.