U.S. competition regulators have mounted an effort to tighten enforcement against illegal mergers, in line with President Joe Biden’s mandate for greater scrutiny to big business combinations.
The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday they are seeking public comment on how current merger guidelines can be updated to better detect and prevent illegal and anticompetitive deals in an increasingly consolidating corporate marketplace. The agencies are stressing the importance of robust competition to the economy, workers, consumers and small businesses.
“Our country depends on competition to drive progress, innovation, and prosperity,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, who heads the Justice Department’s antitrust division. “We need to understand why so many industries have too few competitors, and to think carefully about how to ensure our merger enforcement tools are fit for purpose in the modern economy.”
In their request for public views on mergers, the regulators are stretching toward a broader definition of anticompetitive conduct.
The trend toward concentration began with a merger boom in the 1980s in corporate America that fattened profits for the dominant companies. Decisions by both Democratic and Republican administrations over the past 15 years have allowed most big mergers to sail through.
The regulators noted Tuesday that the ongoing merger surge was reflected in companies’ applications to regulators for approval, which more than doubled from 2020 to 2021.
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