Amy Klobuchar’s Big Antitrust Bill Wants To End the Age of Megamergers

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On Thursday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the incoming Democrat head of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, introduced an omnibus bill signaling a pitched battle over the future of antitrust law. The law takes aim not just at big tech companies, but potentially all large companies. According to experts Motherboard spoke with, some parts of the bill offer ambitious changes to antitrust law, but others adhere to a framework that has undermined enforcing antitrust law for too long already.

At its core, the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act essentially combines legislation Klobuchar has proposed over the past few years as well as some that Senate Democrats have been considering. It takes a harder stance on anticompetitive mergers and acquisitions, and also promises to empower the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s antitrust division to aggressively enforce antitrust law. Some of the bill’s key proposals concern amendments and provisions to the Clayton Act of 1914, an antitrust law that made certain anticompetitive practices such as price discrimination outright illegal. In her omnibus bill, one key proposal seeks to strengthen anticompetitive merger enforcement by amending the Clayton Act to outright ban mergers that “create an appreciable risk of materially lessening competition,” as well as mergers that create monopsonies (buyers or employers who can suppress prices or wages via anti-competitive practices targeting other buyers or employers).

Klobuchar’s merger prohibitions also shift the burden of proof to the merging companies, which would have to prove a deal would not be anticompetitive, or create a monopoly or monopsony. In part, this means deals where a merger (or acquisition) yielded over 50 percent market share, where a transaction is valued over $5 billion, or where an acquisition worth over $50 million by a company valued over $100 billion would be presumed illegal. This move won her some praise from experts who praised its clear presumptive bar on large mergers. Other key proposals, however, that have raised concerns among antitrust advocates who are seeking larger structural changes.

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