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By Liz Crampton
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) Sept. 14 introduced two bills intended to “modernize” antitrust enforcement, including a proposal to require big merging companies to prove their tie-ups won’t harm competition.
Klobuchar promised earlier this year introduce legislation to give antitrust officials at the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department the tools she says will enable them to confront competition problems in today’s economy.
Democratic leaders have recently embraced efforts to make significant changes to antitrust enforcement. Her legislative package marks a step toward that goal.
One of Klobuchar’s proposals would shift the burden of proof for companies involved in “mega-mergers,” a term that the bill doesn’t define. Merging companies would have to prove to regulators that their deal doesn’t harm competition. Currently, it works the opposite way. Regulators are required to prove that a proposed merger is likely to harm competition to stop it.
Three Democrats co-sponsor that bill — Sens. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The measure also would add the term “monopsony” to the Clayton Antitrust Act so that single buyers controlling a market would be illegal. The bill would create an “Office of the Competition Advocate” to help consumers with complaints, encourage antitrust investigations, and analyze and publish reports on merger activity.
Nine Democratic senators joined as co-sponsors of a less far-reaching bill that would require big companies to pay higher fees when filing antitrust paperwork with the government.
It would require companies that enter into settlements with the FTC and DOJ to document cost-saving “efficiencies” that they say would result from their merger. They would also need to track the effectiveness of any conditions placed on the merged entity. The measure also would require the FTC to examine how institutional ownership across companies affects competition.
The bill would require the Comptroller General conduct studies on the effectiveness of merger remedies and how mergers impact wages, employment, innovation, and new business formation.
The legislation also requests more funding for the Justice Department and the FTC.
Advocacy groups Consumers Union, Public Knowledge, and the American Antitrust Institute support the second measure.
The bill numbers were not immediately available.
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