The Political Economy of Federal Trade Commission Administrative Decision Making in Merger Enforcement

Malcolm B. Coate and Andrew N. Kleit
Working Paper:

Firms seeking to merge face antitrust scrutiny from either the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Unlike the DOJ, the FTC litigates its cases in front of its own administrative law judges (ALJ), and then hears the appeal itself, rather than using the federal district courts. This study focuses on the formal decisions made by the FTC after an ALJ has conducted a full trial on the merits. We find that while the "merits" of a matter, as implied by the caselaw, affect the FTC’s decision, institutional factors also have an impact.