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An important way the FTC seeks to promote competition is to challenge anticompetitive mergers that could harm consumers by resulting in higher prices, lower quality, fewer choices, or reduced rates of innovation. Normally, we must assess the likely effects of mergers before they take place in order to challenge those that appear harmful. As the name suggests, a merger retrospective is a study of a merger that has already taken place, perhaps because it went unchallenged or a court ruled that the merger could proceed. Retrospective studies, by using data from before and after mergers, can help us to learn how completed mergers affected prices, quality, consumer choice, and innovation, and they can enable an examination of past enforcement decisions. They can also provide guidance about the types of information and methods of analysis that may help us to better distinguish mergers that are likely to harm consumers from those that are not.

This resource provides a description of the FTC’s program to conduct these studies and provides links to resources for researchers interested in performing original merger retrospectives.

Giving New Focus to the FTC’s Merger Retrospective Program

Since 1984, economists in the FTC’s Bureau of Economics (“BE”) have been conducting retrospective studies of a range of consummated mergers. A summary of this work can be found on the program overview page, and a list of completed studies, with downloadable files, is available on the Retrospective Studies by the Bureau of Economics page.

BE is establishing a more formal retrospective program and committing additional resources to ensure that retrospective research, both inside and outside the agency, can systematically address the questions that are most relevant for the enforcement choices that the Commission makes. Learn more from our comprehensive discussion of new initiatives. Some of the most important initiatives are:

  • BE management plans to dedicate more time and resources to retrospective projects, including in collaboration with academics and researchers at other agencies.
  • BE will organize and support sessions devoted to retrospectives at annual Industrial Organization conferences, and devote a session at the BE’s Annual Microeconomics Conference to retrospectives at least once every three years.
  • The BE Director will provide a publicly available annual summary report on the lessons from recent retrospective studies.
  • BE will maintain this website devoted to research on retrospectives, including a bibliography of completed studies.