An Overview of Transparency at the Federal Trade Commission: Generalities and Innovations in Merger Analysis

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Malcolm Coate, Dec 16, 2009

The Federal Trade Commission’s 2004 horizontal merger data release initiated a research program to increase the transparency associated with merger enforcement. To tabulate the structural (e.g., Herfindahls, significant rivals, and entry conditions) and expected performance (e.g., customer concerns and hot documents) data required for the release, Bureau of Economics staff collected, organized, and reviewed files for every merger in which a second request was issued during the fiscal years 1996-2003. Supplemental work collected some data back to fiscal year 1993 and the later updates of the data filled out the file through fiscal year 2008. The collection of this unique research data set, along with the tabulation of new data (e.g., natural experiments, homogeneous goods structure, and customer sophistication) enabled a wide range of follow-on studies. The goal of the overall project is to explore the Federal Trade Commission’s merger enforcement record in a search for empirical generalities and innovations. Insights into the analytical structures of merger analysis are likely to benefit a wide range of interested parties (attorneys, executives, bureaucrats, and academics). This paper presents an overview of the various studies using the structure of the Merger Guidelines to organize the presentation. Thus, the discussion starts with market definition and concentration, moves on to the competitive effects analysis, then entry, and finally, efficiencies. Conclusions are drawn for how the process appears to work and innovative ideas are highlighted. When relevant, suggestions are made for future improvements in merger analysis.