Can you unscramble an egg? This is the analogy that many commentators apply to the question of breaking up a company with market power. The question of whether antitrust regulators should enforce a remedy amounting to the breakup of a company raises multifaceted issues.
Calls for breaking up monopolies largely focus on proving that past acquisitions are anticompetitive. Another major concern relates to the occasional request to break up a single large company. After establishing that an anticompetitive merger or other act has occurred, there is frequently skepticism of breakups as a remedy. Are governments competent to execute such a difficult task? Past examples include the breakups of Standard Oil and AT&T, and the success of these solutions remains subject to scrutiny. Even advocates of more vigorous antitrust enforcement frequently recommend less radical remedies.
That said, the call for such breakups is not uncommon in contemporary antitrust discourse. A key question thus relates to the question of whether these breakups are an effectively administrable remedy that actually benefits consumers.
The pieces in this Chronicle address the above issues in their various facets, based on viewpoints from key antitrust enforcement jurisdictions.
As always, many thanks to our great panel of authors.
“They say that breaking up is hard to do…
…Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down”